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NATO chief: Most Wagner forces haven’t moved to Belarus

NATO chief: Most Wagner forces haven’t moved to Belarus

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Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin made a deal to go to Belarus — but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that only a few of his mercenaries have ended up there.

In an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday, the defensive alliance leader said Wagner forces do remain active in Africa and away from the frontline in Ukraine but that not many have arrived in Belarus. 

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko brokered a deal for Prigozhin to head to his country following a failed mutiny in Russia, sparking fears about Wagner’s possible future presence in the region. 

“We have seen some preparations for the hosting of Wagner forces,” Stoltenberg said. But, he added, “We have so far not yet seen so many of them arriving.”

“We are, of course, closely following what’s going on in Belarus,” Stoltenberg said. “What we have seen is that the Wagner forces continue to operate in Africa,” he noted, underscoring that while not many have gone to Belarus, “some are in Ukraine, but not at the frontlines.”

Nevertheless, the secretary-general was cautious in his assessment of what comes next for Wagner. 

“I think it’s a bit too early to draw any final conclusions” of the consequences for Wagner of recent events, he said. 

Asked about Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the secretary-general was upbeat but acknowledged the significant challenges Kyiv’s forces are facing on the battlefield. 

“The Ukrainians have made progress, but they face fierce fighting,” he said. “They face tough terrain and they face dug-in Russian resistance,” the NATO chief said, pointing to “a lot of pre-prepared defensive lines.”  

“So of course, this has impacted the pace of the progress,” the secretary-general said. “Wars are hard to predict.”

Ukrainians, the secretary-general added, “continue to push, they continue to make some progress.” 

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