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The arrest of the Wagner PMC fighters in Belarus has put Russia in a very uncomfortable position. After all, now not only are the Kremlin and its affiliated media resources forced to come up with excuses, explaining how come their militants emerged in the neighboring “fraternal” and “allied” country, they’re also desperate to find ways to make sure these “soldiers of fortune” don’t start talking…
Traditionally enough, Russian propaganda tries to level as much as possible the significance of the arrest on an international scale and to simultaneously fill the information space with absolutely mad versions of the events, which, due to their absurdity, put Russian propagandists in an even more embarrassing position.
First of all, I’d like to remind you that when the first report appeared about some foreign PMC members busted in Belarus, Russia’s gray-segment information platforms started spreading their first spin — that the detainees allegedly were Ukrainian mercenaries.
Of course, this fake story was immediately annihilated after photos of the detainees’ Russian passports were seen in media reports. Then the story changed to a “Belarus transit to Sudan”. But, if we look at the flight schedule from Belarus, we won’t find Sudan there since there’s no air connection as such!
Thus, our hybrid graphomaniacs got embarrassed twice in a row on the information front before being given a hastily drafted third manual, even backed by an official diplomatic statement.
So, Russian ambassador to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev claimed that the Russians, who were detained the day before in Belarus, had allegedly been transiting via Belarus and missed their flight to a third country, which was… Turkey!
Of course, when the conspirators failed miserably with the “Ukrainian PMC” and the Sudan transit narratives, they decided to use the Istanbul option, given the availability of regular flights from Minsk. But please, reflect for a second on the very context of the statement… Three dozen Russian mercenaries with Wagner PMC, the same group which has been fighting against Turkey in Syria and Libya, are heading to Istanbul for what purpose exactly? To go on tours across the city’s historic center? To visit the legendary street market, shopping for souvenirs and carpets?
I don’t know if propaganda graphomaniacs, who were drafting crisis PR theses on the issue, even thought about pure logic and consequences, but Dmitry Mezentsev’s latest statement failed to remove any suspicions off the hapless “tourists”. Moreover, it sharply drew Ankara’s attention.
But, as I said above, it is now vital for the Kremlin to get its subversion professionals out of Belarus as soon as possible, by hook or by crook. Indeed, over time, despite their high-level training and endurance, but any PoWs — or let’s say “detainees” — start talking. In this case, the testimony could flow well beyond their role assigned in the foiled Belarus coup and cover Russia’s crimes in countries where PMC Wagner has been operating.
Currently, Wagner PMC is being investigated in relation to crimes committed by mercenaries employed by a war criminal Khalifa Haftar in Libya. Wagner troops are accused of a significant part of those crimes. Libyan Interior Minister Ali Bashaga just a month ago appealed to the European Union member states with a request to include Wagner PMC in the list of sponsors of terrorism.
Also, the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) said it had evidence of the Russian PMC Wagner committing actions threatening lives of Libyan civilians. According to U.S. Marine Corps Major General Bradford Gering, AFRICOM director of operations, the Wagner Group is responsible for the suffering and death of innocent civilians.
Also, mass graves discovered by the internationally-recognized government in places where Russian PMC Wagner mercenaries had been stationed before retreating, leave little doubt that the latter ignore international conventions as they get involved in conflicts.
Therefore, it would be an extreme nuisance to Russia if these detainees fell into a spotlight of international investigative bodies, testifying in the case of the botched Belarus coup and in Belarus and eventually even ending up on the bench of some international court. I only wish that the clumsy and amorphous European judicial system doesn’t miss its chance. After all, history shows that those who spill Russian beans might as well suddenly inhale or touch some sort of a nerve agent…