Wagner, infamous for brutality in Ukraine and a failed mutiny in Russia, is registered as an ‘educational organization’ in its new home – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Wagner, infamous for brutality in Ukraine and a failed mutiny in Russia, is registered as an ‘educational organization’ in its new home

Belarusian soldiers attend a training by mercenary fighters from Wagner private military company.

Belarusian Defense Ministry via VoenTV via AP, File

The Wagner Group has reportedly registered as an “educational organization” in Belarus.
It’s a stark contrast for the mercenaries, who have a history of violence and human rights abuses.
The embattled organization has been training soldiers in the Belarusian military for several weeks. 

The Wagner Group has a rough reputation for violence and brutality, which was seen regularly in Ukraine with deadly human wave attacks, the reported torturing of prisoners of war, and executions of deserters. Now, the mercenary group is registered as an “educational organization” in Belarus — their new home — as they train the country’s military.

Information published by Belarus’ Unified State Register of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs shows that Wagner registered as a company earlier this month, with the sole purpose of educational activities, according to multiple reports on Wednesday.

The entity appears to be registered in the country’s central Asipovichy district, which is the location of a military base where the mercenaries have been staying for several weeks. 

After inciting a deadly and short-lived armed rebellion against Russia’s military leadership in late June, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was seemingly cast into exile in Belarus. Facing an uncertain future, Prigozhin’s mercenaries were given the opportunity to join him in neighboring Belarus, which offered to host the fighters at an abandoned military camp in the Asipovichy region so they could train the country’s armed forces. 

Belarus announced in mid-July that Wagner had started training territorial defense units, and that partnership has since expanded. The mercenaries eventually began to carry out more advanced training, covering combined arms assault with tanks and artillery support, drone evasion, dismounted infantry maneuvering, and more. Experts have noted that some of these exercises typically take place in partnership with Russian soldiers. 

A fighter from Russian Wagner mercenary group and a Belarusian service member take part in a joint training at the Brest military range outside Brest, Belarus, in this still image released July 20, 2023.

Belarusian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

“I need to train my own military personnel because an army that doesn’t fight is half an army,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier this month, according to an English translation of his remarks by state-run media outlet Belta. “I don’t want to fight. I don’t want our guys to die. This is why they need to be trained.”

It’s unclear if the “educational organization” registry will impact Wagner’s operations in Belarus or how it trains the military there, but the new designation certainly marks a stark contrast to past Wagner activity in different countries around the world, including on the battlefield in Ukraine.

For example, the mercenaries have been accused of widespread human rights violations and various atrocities across Africa, where the organization is present in several countries with unstable governments.

Prigozhin said last month that Wagner fighters in Belarus will stay there for a while before eventually heading south to Africa, although the timeline is ambiguous. But the longer that the mercenaries remain in Belarus, the more unease it appears to cause for NATO’s eastern European members that share a border with the country. 

Officials Poland and Lithuania have voiced distress in recent weeks after Warsaw asserted that dozens of Wagner fighters moved into positions near the border and two Belarusian military helicopters violated its airspace. Minsk denied the claims, and the US has downplayed the concerns. 

FILE – In this photo taken from video released by Belarus’ Defense Ministry on Thursday, July 20, 2023, Belarusian soldier of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) and a mercenary fighter from Wagner private military company attend the weeklong maneuvers that will be conducted at a firing range near the border city of Brest, Belarus.

Belarus’ Defense Ministry via AP, File

“I’m not aware of any imminent risk right now, as it relates to cross-border operations,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at a briefing earlier this month, adding that “when it comes to Wagner Group, I think we all keep a close eye all of the time.”

Still, the two NATO countries remain on edge and have taken actions to address concerns about Wagner. Poland this week said it arrested two Russians that it accused of distributing Wagner Group propaganda and has deployed troops to the border with Belarus, while Lithuania announced on Wednesday its plan to close two border checkpoints with Belarus — citing the Wagner Group’s relocation there.  

“This decision is one of the preventive measures aimed at managing emerging threats to national security and possible provocations at the border,” said Agnė Bilotaitė, Lithuania’s interior minister, in a statement. “It will enable border officers to redistribute their capacities at the border with Belarus and pay even larger attention to the protection of the state border.”

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