UPDATE - Belarus' president says Wagner Group 'mood is bad' as its fighters want to move into Poland

UPDATE - Belarus' president says Wagner Group 'mood is bad' as its fighters want to move into Poland

Alexander Lukashenko tells Russian President Putin that he is keeping Wagner Group forces in country’s center, as per deal reached during paramilitary group's brief mutiny in late June

CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK, LEDE, UPDATES WITH FURTHER COMMENTS FROM BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT

By Burc Eruygur

ISTANBUL (AA) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Sunday that the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group is putting pressure on his country with the intention of pushing across the border into neighboring Poland.

“Maybe I shouldn't say it, but I will. The Wagnerites began to strain us: ‘We want to go to the West. Allow us.’ I said, why do you need to go to the West? ‘Well, to go on an excursion to Warsaw, to Rzeszow'," Lukashenko said during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg.

Lukashenko said he is keeping Wagner Group forces in the country’s center, as per the agreement reached during the paramilitary group's short-lived mutiny in late June.

Belarus does not want to relocate them near the Polish border because "their mood is bad," he added.

Russia and Belarus are allies and are linked in a partnership known as the "union state."

Last month, Lukashenko brokered a deal to end a short-lived Wagner Group mutiny in which its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused the Russian Defense Ministry of attacking his paramilitary fighters and declared a "March of Justice" toward Moscow.

The Russian Federal Security Service designated the group’s action “an armed rebellion” and opened a criminal case against Prigozhin, while Russian President Vladimir Putin called the private military company's uprising an act of “treason.”

Prigozhin later turned back “to avoid bloodshed” and has since moved to Belarus under the Lukashenko-brokered deal.


- 'Ukraine’s counteroffensive failed'


During the meeting, Putin claimed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive "exists, but it has failed," in response to Lukashenko's remarks that “there is no counteroffensive."

Putin, who ordered a "special military operation" in Ukraine in February 2022, claimed that Ukrainian losses of soldiers since the counteroffensive began last month exceeded 26,000.

For his part, Lukashenko claimed that more than 15 Leopard and over 20 Bradley tanks were destroyed over the past 24 hours.

Ukrainian authorities have not yet commented on Putin and Lukashenko's comments, and independent confirmation of their claims is difficult due to the ongoing war.

He added that plans to “dismember” Ukraine and separate the country’s western regions are “unacceptable.”

Russian officials have maintained that Poland is preparing plans to annex the western parts of Ukraine, a claim that Polish officials have denied.

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