Wagner Troops In Belarus 'Want To Go West' Into Poland, Lukashenka Quips During Meeting With Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in St. Petersburg on July 23 with Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was quoted as saying in an apparent joking tone that fighters of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who are now training Belarus's army were keen to push across the border into NATO member Poland.

"The Wagner guys have started to stress us. They want to go west. 'Let's go on a trip to Warsaw and Rzeszow'," he was quoted as saying.

To read the original story by AFP, click here. https://www.barrons.com/news/kyiv-warsaw-will-always-stand-united-ukraine-s-fm-9e2b5b49

Poland is moving extra troops toward the border with Belarus in response to the arrival of Wagner forces who relocated there after a short-lived mutiny in Russia last month.

The meeting comes two days after Moscow warned that any aggression against ally Belarus would be considered an attack on Russia. Putin said Moscow would use all means it has to react to any hostility toward Minsk.

While not sending his own troops to Ukraine, Lukashenka allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to launch its full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022 and has since met with Putin frequently.

In comments to Lukashenka, Putin claimed that Ukraine's counteroffensive "had failed.”

"There is no counteroffensive," Russian news agencies quoted Lukashenka as saying.

Putin replied: "It exists, but it has failed."

Ukraine began its long-anticipated counteroffensive last month but has so far made only small gains against well-entrenched Russian forces.

U.S. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on July 18 that the Ukrainian drive was "far from a failure" but would be long, hard, and bloody.

Lukashenka and Putin also repeated Moscow's oft-stated remarks suggesting that Poland has eyes on capturing parts of western Ukraine for itself, reversing some post-World War II border changes.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba respoded by saying Ukraine and Poland would "always stand united" and that "Putin's attempts to drive a wedge between Kyiv and Warsaw are as futile as his failing invasion of Ukraine."

"Unlike Russia, Poland and Ukraine have learned from history and will always stand united against Russian imperialism and disrespect for international law," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

The remarks came two days after Putin angered Warsaw by saying western Poland was a "gift" from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the end of World War II, when the Allies set out the borders of postwar Europe.

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Key Words: Russia, Belarus, Wagner Group, Ukraine, Russo-Ukrainian War, Poland, NATO, Lukashenka

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