Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has now claimed that Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is in Russia.
After the Wagner group marched within 125 miles of Moscow over disagreements with the Russian military, Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a deal that would see the Wagner group leader going to Belarus. Charges against Prigozhin were subsequently dropped. However, he is reportedly back in Russia, according to CNN.
However, Lukashenko’s recent comments raise questions about Prigozhin’s location, as he has not been seen since June 24 when he departed from Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia.
When Lukashenko was asked about Prigozhin’s whereabouts, he responded: “In terms of Yevgeny Prigozhin, he is in St. Petersburg. Or maybe this morning he would travel to Moscow or elsewhere. But he is not on the territory of Belarus now.”
The Kremlin did not provide specifics on the potential location of the Wagner group leader, noting that “we do not track his movements. We have neither the ability nor the desire to do so.” This comment runs counter to Lukashenko’s statement that journalists were naive if they did not believe Russian security services were keeping a close eye on Prigozhin, per Reuters.
Following Wagner’s terminated insurrection, Lukashenko mentioned that he would house Wagner fighters in Belarus, but it is still unclear whether the fighters had arrived in the country. Lukashenko noted that Moscow will determine when and if the paramilitary group will come to his country, adding that the decision would be made “in the near future,” according to the report.
If Wagner were to show up in Belarus, Lukashenko said that they would have the duty of protecting the country. “The main condition is that if we need to use this unit for the defense of our state, if they are here, they will be activated instantly in any direction. Their experience will be in demand.”
When Lukashenko was asked why he had offered to maintain a mercenary army that had rebelled within its borders, he said: “The Russians thought it was safe to have them, but they were wrong.”
“I don’t think that Wagner will rise up somewhere and turn its guns against the Belarusian authorities and the Belarusian state,” he added. “Anything can happen in life. But I don’t see such a situation today. You need to work with people.”