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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    Belarus Detains 33 Russian Wagner Mercenaries Ahead of Presidential Election – Report

    Belarussian law enforcement has detained 33 mercenaries from the private Russian military contractor Wagner Group less than two weeks before the country's presidential election, the Belarus state-run Belta news agency reported Wednesday.


    The surprise announcement is the latest twist in an extraordinary election campaign that has seen strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko jail his key would-be rivals ahead of the vote.


    The Wagner Group, a U.S.-sanctioned outfit with links to the Kremlin through catering magnate Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been reported to be fighting in Syria, eastern Ukraine and other conflict-torn countries on behalf of the Russian government.


    "Information was received about the arrival of more than 200 militants in Belarussian territory to destabilize the situation during the election campaign," Belta wrote, citing law enforcement agencies.


    The state news agency did not explain where the remaining suspected militants were.

    The men's behavior was "uncharacteristic for Russian tourists" because they didn't drink and their "uniform military-style clothing" drew attention, the news agency said.


    Forces from the Belarus KGB and the Minsk special police detained 32 people in Minsk overnight. A 33rd person was detained in the south of the country, Belta reported.


    Lukashenko demanded an explanation from Moscow at an emergency government meeting following the report's publication.


    Moscow did not release an immediate comment. The Russian Embassy in Minsk said Belarussian law enforcement hasn't informed them of the detentions.


    Russian author Zakhar Prilepin said "two or three" of the detained Russians had served in his former battalion in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.


    National television showed several Russian passports that allegedly belong to the detained men, as well as stacks of dollar bills, packets of condoms and pieces of paper with Arabic script.


    Belarussian television also broadcast footage of a group of men who it said arrived in the country on July 25 and a raid on the premises where they were staying.


    Some of the men were shown lying face down wearing just their underwear.


    The alleged mercenaries may have been on their way to Sudan, the U.S.-funded Svoboda.org news website reported, citing video footage that showed Sudanese currency and a telephone card depicting the Khatmiya Mosque in Kassala among the detained men's belongings. Previous news reports have said the Wagner Group is active in Sudan.

    Protests have swept across Belarus in the lead-up to its Aug. 9 presidential election in which incumbent President Lukashenko is seeking his sixth term. Protesters first took to the streets after Lukashenkos main rivals were jailed or barred from running and have since rallied behind the wife of a jailed opposition candidate.


    Authorities in Belarus have cracked down on the opposition and detained more than 250 people at protests this month.


    Lukashenko has previously accused foreign powers of seeking to destabilize Belarus and organize a popular uprising in the run-up to the vote. Last week he threatened to deport foreign journalists who he accused of stirring up protests against him.


    Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international election and war monitor, has not recognized any polls in Belarus as free and fair since 1995.

    Belarus Detains 33 Russian Wagner Mercenaries Ahead of Presidential Election – Report - The Moscow Times

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat TheRealKW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misskit View Post
    The men's behavior was "uncharacteristic for Russian tourists" because they didn't drink and their "uniform military-style clothing" drew attention, the news agency said.
    Sounds like they were not trying to disguise.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat harrybarracuda's Avatar
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    The men's behavior was "uncharacteristic for Russian tourists" because they didn't drink
    Stuck out like a sore thumb.

  4. #4
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    Belarus says Russians plotted attacks; Kremlin rolls eyes

    MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Belarusian authorities on Thursday accused more than 30 detained Russians of plotting terror attacks amid a presidential election campaign, allegations that Russian officials angrily rejected.


    The grave accusations mark an unprecedented spike in tensions between Russia and Belarus, which are neighbors and traditionally allies. Independent observers and opposition supporters in Belarus have dismissed the alleged terror plot as a campaign stunt by President Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader who is seeking a sixth term in next month’s election.


    The Belarusian State Security Committee, still known by its Soviet-era name KGB, said it detained 32 people from private Russian military firm Wagner early Wednesday at a sanitarium outside the capital of Minsk. Another person was detained in the country’s south.


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    Security Council Secretary Andrei Ravkov said Thursday that the Russians are facing a criminal probe on charges of plotting terror attacks in Belarus. He claimed that Belarusian authorities were searching for another 200 Russian “militants” believed to be in the ex-Soviet nation.


    The Kremlin responded by urging Belarus to explain its action and to fully respect the detainees’ rights.


    “There is no information about any wrongdoing of the Russians that may have caused the detention.,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He shrugged off the allegations of the Russians’ involvement in efforts to destabilize Belarus as “nothing but innuendo.”


    After being summoned by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, Russian Ambassador Dmitry Mezentsev also dismissed the accusations as unfounded. He said the Russians were en route to an unspecified country and checked into the sanitarium near Minsk after they missed a connecting flight at the capital’s airport.


    Mezentsev demanded immediate consular access to the detainees and urged Belarusian authorities to show their evidence against the Russians.


    The Wagner company is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who was indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The firm has allegedly deployed hundreds of military contractors to eastern Ukraine, Syria and Libya.


    Many observers have pointed out that Belarus long has provided a transit corridor for sensitive Russian operations abroad.


    Lukashenko is campaigning to remain in office amid an upsurge in opposition protests fueled by public fatigue with his iron-fisted rule and a painful economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Some observers see the detention of the Russians as an attempt by the president to mobilize public support in the Aug. 9 election.


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    “Amid a sharp drop in his popularity, Lukashenko has to turn to theatrical gestures to scare everyone and to try to stem the wave of protests,” Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst based in Minsk, said.


    Throughout his 26-year rule, Lukashenko has relied on cheap Russian energy and loans to keep his nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat. Belarus and Russia have a union deal envisaging close political, economic and military ties, but Moscow has recently cut some of the subsidies, arguing that Belarus must accept closer integration to receive energy resources at a discount.


    The Belarusian leader has bristled at Russian demands and accused the Kremlin of harboring plans to deprive Belarus of its post-Soviet independence.


    “The new scandals help remind the Kremlin that it needs to pay for loyalty,” Klaskovsky said.


    Belarus’ Investigative Committee said Thursday it was also investigating whether the detained Russians could have been involved in preparations for staging “mass riots” as part of a criminal probe against a jailed opposition blogger, Sergei Tikhanovsky. He has been in custody since May on charges of attacking a police officer, which he rejected as a provocation


    Tikhanovsky’s wife, Svetlana, who is challenging Lukashenko in the election, dismissed the new accusations against her husband as “absolutely unlawful.” Election officials rejected attempts by two other potential presidential challengers to register for the race.


    Over 20,000 Tikhanovskaya’s supporters gathered Thursday at her rally in Minsk, the biggest since the start of the campaign. Many participants dismissed the official claims of a Russian subversion plot as a sham.


    “We are worried about the lack of money to buy food and medicines, not some mythical enemies and plots,” retiree Nikolai Ostapchuk, 72, said.


    “No one believes in these thriller stories about Russian militants, which are intended to switch our attention, scare us and keep us at home,” said 43-year-old driver Dmitry Furkovsky.

    Belarus says Russians plotted attacks; Kremlin rolls eyes

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    Belarus Hands 32 Detained 'Mercenaries' Over to Russia

    Russia on Friday announced the safe return of 32 of its citizens after Belarus detained them saying they were mercenaries sent to destabilize the country ahead of Sunday's presidential election.


    Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement that "32 Russian citizens who were earlier detained in Belarus crossed the border and are now in Russia."


    It added that one other man, who has dual Belarusian citizenship, remained there.


    The statement came after Belarus announced in late July ahead of August 9 presidential polls that it had detained 33 Russians at a health resort outside Minsk.


    The Belarusian security service, the KGB, said they were fighters for the shadowy Wagner private army, reportedly funded by a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


    Its recruits are believed to act in numerous foreign conflicts including in Syria and Ukraine.


    The Belarusian KGB initially said the men were sent to destabilize Belarus ahead of polls. A senior official said they were suspected of preparing a terrorist attack.


    Belarus later changed its account, saying the men were facing a charge of making preparations for mass disorder, a criminal charge.


    It suggested they acted along with detained Belarusian opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko including the husband of the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.


    The men gave testimony that they were planning to travel on to foreign destinations including Venezuela.


    It emerged that several of the detained men had fought alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and Ukraine said it would seek to extradite them.


    Russia has denied interference in the Belarusian polls but did not issue any harsh statements over the detentions, while saying the men had done nothing wrong.


    Lukashenko has close ties with Moscow although he has often sought to play Russia off against the European Union, and Moscow has publicly supported him during the latest protests.


    The Belarusian strongman issued more conciliatory statements about the incident ahead of the men's release.


    A Russian tabloid, Komsomolskaya Pravda, reported that the whole operation had been organized by Ukraine as a provocation.


    Lukashenko has now shifted to blaming the protests on other foreign countries as thousands take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations against police violence and against the polls they said were rigged to re-elect the strongman.


    On Friday he claimed people had arrived from Poland, Ukraine and the Netherlands to direct the protest movement.

    Belarus Hands 32 Detained 'Mercenaries' Over to Russia - The Moscow Times

  6. #6
    Thailand Expat harrybarracuda's Avatar
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    Russia on Friday announced the safe return of 32 of its citizens
    Contract completed.

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