Imparting Experience From Bakhmut: Battle-Hardened Wagner Veterans Commence Drills With Belarusian Forces

The Belarusian Interior Ministry’s forces have begun joint military exercises with private military contractors from the Wagner Group, which redeployed to the country in June after over a year of intensive combat operations in Ukraine and are expected to impart much of their experience from the theatre. Interior Troops Deputy Commander Sergey Grebennikov reported regarding the exercises: “Special and tactical special training measures are already underway in the interior troops jointly with the Wagner PMC. Wagner fighters are sharing with pleasure their combat experience in various spheres: employing unmanned aerial vehicles, sniper guns and electronic warfare capabilities.” This follows an announcement from the Belarusian Defence Ministry on July 20 that Belarus’ special forces would be training jointly with Wagner fighters at the Brestsky Training Ground near the Belarusian-Polish border. With Wagner forces considered among the most battle hardened in the world, particularly after close to a year of high intensity combat in Bakhmut, the imparting of their experience could be highly valuable for Belarusian forces. While benefitting from the presence of Wagner Group forces, as well as from the deployments of significant Russian aerial warfare assets to its territory, Belarus has notably also invested in modernising its armed forces with new hardware including Mi-35 attack helicopters, S-400 air defence systems and T-72BM2 tanks.

Drills near the Polish border have occurred as Belarus has perceived a growing threat to its security from neighbouring Poland, which hosts and supports significant contingents of anti-government militias of Belarusian origin which have consistently expressed intentions to overthrow the state and impose a Western-aligned government in its place. Poland’s orders for very large quantities of new American and South Korean military hardware, including K2 tanks and F-35 fighters, and its requests to host and gain wartime operational access to American nuclear weapons, have been further factors leading Minsk to perceive the state as a serious threat. Polish military contractors have played very significant roles in the ongoing war in Ukraine, with the head of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin, for one, having reported in April: “Well-trained enemy units are now being tossed into Bakhmut. Polish speech all day long. While I used to say there were few mercenaries, now there’s a large number of them.” Polish combatants have also formed ideologically motivated foreign volunteer units in Ukraine, with the Polish Volunteer Corps having been prominently involved in an assault on Russia’s Grayvoron District on May 22.