Authorities in Belarus have detained 33 people suspected of being members of Russian private military company ‘Wagner,’ state media reports. The fighters allegedly had come to destabilize the country during its upcoming election.
Belarus government officials would not immediately confirm the report, saying details of what had happened would be made public “through official channels” in due course.
Belta, the state news agency, said all the detainees belong to ‘Wagner,’ a Russian company accused of providing mercenary services throughout the world. The agency’s law enforcement sources said that they received the information about the arrival of more than 200 militants on Belarus’ territory to allegedly destabilize the situation during the election campaign.
The group of 32 suspects were arrested overnight at a country resort near Minsk. Another one was arrested in the country’s South, Belta reported, adding that Belarus state security agency KGB and the Interior Ministry special forces had been involved in the operation.
Footage shown by Belarus 1 television channel showed various items purportedly seized during the arrest. The suspects had Russian passports, cash in US dollars, a user manual for tactical gear, military-style patches, condoms and what appeared to be a text in Arabic.
The story comes amid a tense election campaign in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko is seeking reelection for a fifth term. The campaign has given rise to a scandal, after one of his leading opponents, banker Viktor Babariko was accused of money laundering and other crimes, disrupting his bid for presidency.
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