Demands by the leadership of Poland and the Baltic states for the withdrawal of Wagner Group mercenaries from Belarus are "unreasonable and stupid," President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday.
"They justify their actions by some threats that allegedly originate from Belarus' territory," the Belarusian president said during a Security Council meeting, according to state news agency BelTA. “They went as far as to demand their immediate withdrawal from Belarus. At the same time, they themselves are increasing military budgets, amassing large military formations at our border," he said.
Lukashenko added that Poland and the Baltic states should not have "a single foreign military officer or soldier on their territory. "Only in this case they have the right to protest against the presence of the military from other countries here," Lukashenko said, according to BelTa. "Otherwise, these are unreasonable and stupid demands."
Lukashenko condemned the decision by Poland in April to suspend its Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty obligations in relation to Belarus. “This is already a dangerous step, and we should keep reminding Poland's leadership about this – so that their decisions won't come back to hurt them,” he said.
However, Lukashenko said Belarus is ready to restore good relations with its neighbors but lamented the lack of willingness on their part.
Lukashenko’s latest comments come as the security situation in the region has become increasingly tense, due to the presence of Wagner fighters in Belarus, following the group's short-lived rebellion in Russia.
On Monday, Poland and the Baltic states pledged to shut their borders with Belarus if a “critical incident” occurs, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński said.
Earlier in August, Poland announced it would move around 10,000 troops to its border with Belarus, while Lithuania said it would temporarily suspend operations at two checkpoints at the border due to concerns over Wagner.
In July, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the situation along the eastern border has now become "even more dangerous," as more than 100 Wagner fighters had moved closer to a strategic stretch of Polish territory lying between Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
He also said Wagner mercenaries may try to pose as migrants in order to cross from Belarus into Poland, in an effort to destabilize NATO's eastern flank.