Belarus’ Deputy Interior Minister Nikolay Karpenkov said the newly arrived Wagner fighters provide Belarus’ armed forces with a “unique opportunity” to become battle-ready.
Karpenkov told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that Wagner was “the kind of modern army that came to us here.”
He said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told law enforcement that the country's army, which has not fought for 40 years, is not combat-ready.
“[Lukashenko] said, ‘Take this as a unique opportunity. Meet them, get to know them, work together on battle formations,’” Karpenkov said.
Commanders of all special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have been tasked with interacting [with Wagner], Karpenkov said, so that “we could already go into battle shoulder-to-shoulder tomorrow, even here.”
“So here we will be given the unique experience that the Wagner PMC has, those fighters, those heroes. There is no other way to put it," he told the Belarusian state-run STB agency, as reported by RIA Novosti. "The use of artillery. And we will train our own specialists. And our groups will be joint in this situation. They have artillery, they have everything, let's say, to use it. And here they will help us.”
It’s not clear what, if any, heavy weaponry Wagner fighters were allowed to bring into Belarus. It was previously reported that they had to transfer such weapons to Russian regular units before leaving in convoys of cars and trucks for Belarus.
A man identified as a Wagner commander in Belarus told the agency: “We will share some experience, of course, we will show people what we can do from our side. But in general, I think that the work will be interesting, very productive.”
“Here the military guys are disciplined, very high level guys who communicate with us about what we are seeing … We both understand what's at stake and are ready to get to work," the commander said.
The number of Wagner personnel currently in Belarus isn’t clear. Over the weekend, Andrii Demchenko, a spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, said the number of Wagner fighters in Belarus “may reach about 5,000.” He said initially there were hundreds, but that mercenaries kept arriving.