Vladimir Putin today hosted Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko at a monastery in Valam, Russia, as part of a two-day official visit.
The trip concluded two days of ‘communications’, which began with talks in Strelna on Sunday. It was the first time they had met since the June mutiny of the Wagner group.
Belarus helped broker the deal that saw safe passage for Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private military company while troops were seen marching toward Moscow.
Since then, Belarusian soldiers have been seen training with Wagner Group troops on the Polish border.
Lukashenko quietly told Putin during talks yesterday that the mercenaries were ‘sneaking’ to move towards Poland. ‘They are asking to go to the West,’ he told Putin, adding that they are ‘asking to go on trips to Warsaw and Rzeszow.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko visit Valam Monastery on Valam Island in the northern part of Lake Ladoga on July 24, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko visit Valam Monastery in the Republic of Karelia, Russia, July 24, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin (second from left) visits Valam Monastery in the Republic of Karelia, Russia on July 24, 2023
Lukashenko told Putin yesterday: ‘I am putting them in central Belarus, as we agreed. We are controlling what is happening. [But] They are in a bad mood.’
He also presented Putin with a map showing the planned Polish invasion of Belarus.
Poland recently moved 1,000 troops to Belarus to bolster security.
Warsaw has made significant efforts to strengthen its military power in recent years, now ranking among the top 20 world powers according to the GFP Index.
In June, the United States approved $15 billion in Patriot and missile defense upgrades for Poland.
Late last year, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called on the country to build an army ‘so strong that it is better not to fight’, deterring the enemy with ‘massive force’.
He announced that PLN 100bn (£19.396bn) would be allocated to modernize the army in 2023.
For comparison, Britain allocated an extra £5bn for defense spending over the next two years in this year’s spring budget.
The annual defense budget is set to reach £51.7 billion by 2024/5.
Poland found that Belarusian troops were also training on the Polish border – now with Wagner’s forces.
Seeing it as a threat.
Russia has also claimed that Poland is attempting an offensive move in the east as it builds up its military.
On Friday, Putin said: ‘Poland’s leaders will probably want to form an alliance under the umbrella of NATO and join the conflict in Ukraine directly, and then ‘tear off’ for themselves a wide swath of, they believe, historical territory – reclaiming today’s western Ukraine.’
Poland formerly dominated much of Central and Eastern Europe as part of a larger Commonwealth, including parts of Lithuania and modern Ukraine.
It lost much of its territory during the Depression of the 18th century and was partitioned by Russia in 1772, 1792 and 1795 – relations soured irreparably.
While many Poles may regret the new borders imposed by Russia after World War II, there is no serious case for Poland trying to ‘reclaim’ former territories such as Lviv.
The Polish government has pledged to deploy a nearby sapper battalion to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank and secure the Suwalki Gap.
The Gap – a space between Poland and Lithuania, which separates Belarus from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad – is considered a point of weakness that, if overwhelmed, could isolate the Baltic states from their western allies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, attend a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, July 23, 2023
The Suwalki Gap between Poland and Lithuania separates Belarus from Kaliningrad
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, clashed with the Russian National Armed Forces throughout the war, while sending his private mercenaries to the front lines to die.
Towards the end of June the rebellion turned towards Moscow, making rapid progress, capturing Rostov and entering Russian territory.
Six Russian army helicopters and one plane were reportedly shot down in the clash.
But the uprising did not succeed in its objectives, as Prigogine negotiated peace through Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko before reaching Moscow.
All charges against the leader of the Wagner Group were eventually dropped to allow him to travel to Belarus.
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