Lithuania’s president expressed concerns about the reported demise of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, emphasizing that it does not necessarily enhance regional security. Gitanas Nauseda stated that the presence of Russian mercenary group members in neighboring Belarus continues to be a worrisome factor.
Situated on NATO’s eastern flank, Lithuania has consistently cautioned about the potential risks posed by the Wagner group, especially after its fighters relocated to Belarus following a brief rebellion in Russia in June.
Russian authorities reported that the group’s leader was aboard a plane that tragically crashed on Wednesday, resulting in the loss of all passengers’ lives. However, President Nauseda stressed that even if Prigozhin’s passing is confirmed, it would have minimal impact on regional security.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed these concerns, asserting that the Wagner group now operates under the direct oversight of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his associates. Morawiecki indicated that the group could be employed as a tool for provocation, blackmail, and destabilization of neighboring countries, to an even greater extent than before.
Both Vilnius and Warsaw had previously raised the possibility that Wagner mercenaries might facilitate illegal migration from Belarus or infiltrate their countries while disguised as irregular migrants. In response, Lithuania recently closed two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus.