Watch Wagner boss very carefully: Ex-UK Army chief to Ukraine

Former UK Army chief has warned Ukraine against potential cross-border attacks by exiled Wagner boss

NEW DELHI | Updated: 26 June, 2023 11:30 am IST
Wagner private military group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin,

NEW DELHI: Ukraine should watch the activities of rebel Wagner private military group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, sent to exile in neighbouring Belarus a few days back, very carefully and be ready for any potential cross-border attack, a former British Army chief has warned.

As many feel that the Wagner group’s mutiny against Russian president Vladimir Putin could be “orchestrated”, Lord Dannatt, in an interview, said that Prigozhin and his fighters could mount an attack on the overconfident Ukrainian forces.

The Wagner Group, led by Prigozhin, has played a significant role in the Ukraine war, including the capture of the eastern city of Bakhmut. However, Prigozhin’s increasing criticism of the military top brass, accusing them of incompetence and depriving his troops of ammunition, led to a short-lived rebellion that ultimately saw him strike a deal with the Kremlin last week.

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If statements of the Kremlin and Prigozhin are to be believed, not a single bullet was fired during the capture of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don last Saturday.

Within 24 hours of launching a rebellion and entering Russia from the frontline in Ukraine, Prigozhin – famously known as ‘Putin’s chef’ – struck a deal with Moscow brokered by Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko and left Rostov-on-Don for Belarus on Saturday.

Authorities in Moscow announced to drop charges of mutiny against the Wagner chief and granted amnesty to his fighters. Under the agreement, Prigozhin and his forces will relocate to Belarus, a country that has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many people argue that the entire mutiny could be a ploy to distract the West and Kyiv to believing that the rebellion has weakened President Putin’s position within Russia, for Moscow to exploit the opportunity to open a new front on the Belarusian border.

ALSO READ: Wagner’s rebellion: Russia warns West against exploitation of domestic crisis

Dannatt expressed apprehension about the situation emphasizing that despite Prigozhin’s departure, the threat posed by the Wagner Group should not be underestimated, especially if the rebel leader maintains an effective fighting force around him.

He called on the Ukrainian government to closely monitor their flank closest to Kyiv, where the conflict began in February of last year. He highlighted the possibility of a renewed attack originating from Belarus, expressing uncertainty regarding the number of fighters who might have accompanied Prigozhin into exile.

While the Ukrainian authorities had hoped that the internal strife within Russia would create opportunities to reclaim seized territory, Dannatt cautioned that the situation is far from resolved. He said that the aftershocks of the recent events will reverberate for some time, necessitating a continued focus on maintaining security and defense readiness.

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