Russia on nuclear alert as 8,000 Wagner thugs mass near Belarus base

Vladimir Putin slams ‘treason’ from Wagner mercenary group

Heavily armed Wagner Group mercenaries thought to be joining Yevgeny Prigozhin in Belarus will be based close to military bases which are home nuclear weapons, an MP and former British Army officer has warned.

And Foreign Secretary James Cleverly promised to keep a “very, very close eye” on the whereabouts of the fighters.

Conservative MP Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) told the Commons: “The latest news, if it is to be believed, is that 8,000 Wagner mercenaries are going to be joining Yevgeny Prigozhin in Belarus in a small town called Asipovichy, where some bases, I understand, are being built under dictator (Aleksandr) Lukashenko’s request.

“Without wishing to speculate whether this brigade-sized force is going to – in the short to medium-term – be a greater threat to Lukashenko or to Putin, will he reassure us that their movements, that this base, is going to be very closely monitored given its proximity not only to Russian nuclear weapons – and we’ve seen the very dual loyalties that the Russian army has towards Wagner – but also now their proximity to Nato borders?”

READ MORE Wagner chief Prigozhin is ‘West’s worst nightmare’[ANALYSIS]

Mr Cleverly replied: “I’m not at all sure I’d be very comfortable with 8,000 Wagner fighters being my friends anywhere or anytime soon.

“We have made it absolutely clear to the Belarussian government that we expect them not to be involved and not to facilitate attacks into Ukraine.

“We will, of course, keep a very, very close eye on reporting around the locations and activity of those Wagner fighters in Belarus.”

The Wagner mutiny in Russia was an “unprecedented” attack on Vladimir Putin’s authority that exposed “cracks” in domestic support for the war in Ukraine Mr Cleverly said.

The Foreign Secretary said the “mask slipped” when warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin “drove a coach and horses” through the Russian president’s case for the invasion during their bitter row.

The feud between Mr Prigozhin and the Kremlin’s military top brass culminated with him sending his mercenaries on a march towards Moscow over the weekend.

A civil war was avoided by a deal brokered between the factions but Mr Cleverly said the chaos showed Ukraine not Russia has the “strategic patience” to win the war.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace sounded a note of caution about over-analysing the dramatic events of the weekend, warning against “over-crediting” its destabilising impact.

Rishi Sunak said it is “too early” to determine whether the rebellion could spark a regime change in Moscow but said the UK is preparing for a “range of scenarios”.

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Former Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “It’s clear that Putin has been significantly weakened in Russia.

“We must not use this time to let up in our support for Ukraine.

“So, first of all, we need to make sure the Ukrainian membership of Nato is fast-tracked at the Vilnius Nato summit. Secondly, we need to make sure there is no talk of deals or concessions or lifting of sanctions on Russia in any circumstances until the war criminals are held to account.

“Finally, we and our allies, including the Ukrainians, including the Poles, including the Baltic states, need to make sure that we have a plan in the case of the implosion of Russia.”

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In an 11-minute audio statement released today, Prigozhin denied trying to attack the Russian state and said he acted in response to an attack on his force that killed some 30 of his fighters.

“We started our march because of an injustice,” Prigozhin said in a recording that gave no details about where he is or what his future plans are.

The Kremlin has said it had made a deal for Prigozhin to move to Belarus and receive amnesty, along with his soldiers.

There was no confirmation of his whereabouts Monday, although a popular Russian news channel on Telegram reported he was seen at a hotel in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

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