NATO countries have no right to demand the expulsion of Wagner Group soldiers from Belarus while they host sizable contingents of foreign troops themselves, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday.
Speaking at a meeting of the nation’s Security Council, the Belarusian leader delivered a stern response to neighboring Poland and the Baltic states, which had urged Minsk to remove the “extremely dangerous” Wagner fighters from the country earlier this week.
Lukashenko pointed out that NATO countries are constantly increasing their military presence on the Belarusian border, while accusing Minsk of “mythical aggressive intentions that have never existed.”
According to Lukashenko, Poland and the Baltic countries are stoking hysteria about the Wagner private military company, which moved to Belarus after a short-lived mutiny in Russia in late June. It was part of a deal between Moscow and the group’s chief Evgeny Prigozhin, who recently died in a plane crash.
The response to [these complaints about Wagner] is simple: Neither Poland, nor Lithuania, nor any other Baltic country should host a single foreign soldier. Then, they can raise objections to the presence of military personnel from other countries here. In the meantime, these are unreasonable and stupid demands.
Lukashenko also blasted Poland’s decision to no longer abide by the Cold War-era Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which sets limits on several categories of military equipment that can be stationed on the continent.
“This is a dangerous step… How should we react to all this? Not to mention the preparation of Belarusian fugitives on their territory to stage a military coup in Belarus,” he added.
In June, Lukashenko accused Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine of training armed “extremist” groups to infiltrate Belarus.
Speaking on Thursday, the Belarusian leader said Minsk was ready to restore relations with its neighbors, while inviting Polish delegates to monitor the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military exercises that will be held on the country’s western border in early September.
Lukashenko’s comments come after Poland and the Baltic states warned that they may close all border crossings with Belarus in the event of a “critical incident” after repeatedly accusing the neighboring country of facilitating illegal migration in the EU. In the past, Belarus’ neighbors have also repeatedly claimed that Wagner operatives were attempting to infiltrate Poland.
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