Wagner poised to ‘smuggle criminals’ into Poland from bases in Belarus

Russia and Belarus have overseen the transfer of battle-hardened Wagner mercenaries to bases a short drive outside of Minsk amid the fallout from the private army’s abortive revolt last month.

Alongside the ranks of Wagner fighters, who took the Kremlin’s offer to move to Belarus following the breakdown of the short-lived coup, are believed to be an unknown number of Russian ex-convicts

Poland has watched events unfolding across the border in Belarus with alarm and reacted by reinforcing the country’s frontiers.

In Warsaw, fears are mounting that the fresh arrival of Wagner forces could encourage Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to embark on a campaign of provocations along the two countries’ shared border.

Polish defence experts believe that a possible scenario could see Belarusian authorities smuggle Wagner convicts across the border for the purpose of committing “serious criminal offences” on Polish soil.

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Dr Jacek Raubo told Express Online: “At this point, it must also be recognized that if, in addition to experienced mercenaries, convicts also appear in Belarus, there may be an attempt to smuggle them across the border in order to commit serious criminal offences.”

The analyst added that this would pose a significant risk, especially if the convicts were provided with fraudulent Ukrainian documents simultaneously.

Dr Raubo told Express Online: “Striving to increase tensions between Polish society and Ukrainian war refugees. Especially for such a member of the Wagner Group pulled out of the Russian penitentiary system, the potential to end up in a Polish prison would not be a big problem.

“Due to the sanitary condition of Polish prisons and, above all, after the elimination of the threat of redeployment to the front line in Ukraine.”

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Lukashenko has already been accused of carrying out a textbook “hybrid warfare operation” by ordering Belarus border guards to direct migrants to the Polish border.

Dr Raubo has also warned that the introduction of Wagner may provide Russia and Belarus with the cover needed to carry out similar clandestine operations designed to destabilise Poland, a NATO member and major backer of Ukraine.

He told Express.co.uk that the recent NATO summit in Lithuania might have presented a tempting target for the mercenary group if not for the strength of Western forces gathered to secure the gathering in Vilnius.

However, he suggested that Poland’s upcoming elections could provide Belarus, Russia and Wagner with another opportunity to undermine NATO while maintaining the cloak of plausible deniability.

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Dr Raubo told Express Online: “A different situation may take place already in September and October due to the expected elections in Poland. Especially since the issue of security, including border security, is an important element of the political dispute in Poland.

“First of all, unfortunately, the possibility of attempted acts of violence and acts of terrorism involving the Wagner Group, or persons impersonating them, must be assumed.

“This may concern, for example, attempts to fire at Polish border guards, soldiers or policemen.

“Unfortunately, mine traps or planting famous IEDs to assault border patrol vehicles, including armoured MRAPs, can also be considered.

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