Support The Moscow Times!

U.S.-Ukrainian Spies Lured Russian 'Mercenaries' to Belarus, Putin Says

Belarus detained 33 Russians in the run-up to its Aug. 9 election, accusing them of seeking to destabilize the country. Moskva News Agency

The detention of 33 Russians described as members of the Wagner mercenary group on the eve of a disputed presidential election in Belarus was a joint U.S.-Ukrainian operation, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

Belarus has accused the men of seeking to destabilize the country by colluding with opposition leaders to orchestrate mass disorder. Belarus returned 32 of the detained Russians weeks later as Belarusians took to the streets to protest the results of the Aug. 9 vote in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory.

“This operation was carried out jointly by Ukrainian and U.S. special services,” Putin said in a televised interview without providing evidence.

“It’s a known fact now and some participants of the process, or those who are well-informed, aren’t even hiding it.”

Putin said in the interview that the detained Russians were tricked into traveling to Belarus with forged documents “for absolutely legal work in Latin America and the Middle East.”  

“In reality, they were dragged into Belarus and presented as a quote-unquote ‘strike force’ to destabilize the situation during the presidential campaign,” Putin told the Rossia 24 state broadcaster.

“Our border agents, by the way, wouldn’t have let them out of the country,” he said.

On Aug. 6, Russia's Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid reported that Ukrainian intelligence had lured the 33 Russian mercenaries — some of whom are Donbass war veterans — to Belarus in order to detain them, but the mission reportedly failed due to a leak. Kiev called the report "disinformation."

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

Once
Monthly
Annual
Continue
paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more