In his address to the nation and to the National Assembly, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko raised the issue of the detention of 33 Russian citizens and announced the news about the deployment of another detachment of militants to the south of Blarus.
"Today we have received information about another detachment, which was deployed to the south. When harvesting is in progress, we should run around and catch them in the forests! We will catch them all," Lukashenko said without clarifying any details.
Before talking about the Russian mercenaries, the president of Belarus announced an attempt to orchestrate a massacre in the center of Minsk.
"There is no hot war yet, there's no shooting, they haven't pulled the trigger yet. Yet, an attempt to orchestrate a massacre in the center of Minsk is already obvious. Billions are being spent against Belarus, and latest technologies have been mobilized," Lukashenko said. He did not accuse anyone specifically of trying to organize the massacre.
Speaking about the Russian mercenaries of PMC Wagner, Lukashenko said that the mercenaries came to Belarus on purpose and watched the development in Minsk during the presidential election campaign. They were not going to leave for third countries, he added. "All the talking about Istanbul, Venezuela, Africa and Libya is a lie. Those people (they testified) were sent specifically to Belarus," Lukashenko said.
According to him, the detainees were ordered to wait. "It was said that they had tickets to Istanbul, but this is not true to fact, because when leaving the Russian border, they had to prove that they were going to Turkey," Lukashenko said wondering why they would have to go to Istanbul via Minsk, if one could fly to Turkey from Russia.
According to Russian officials, the detainees are employees of the private security company who were on their way to Latin America via Minsk and Istanbul.
"We have shown humane attitude towards those guys, and we got a certain effect from this: they told us everything. So stop lying and stirring up mess in the media," Lukashenka stated. "We are all neighbours - Belarusians, Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Jews. We have always lived here in peace, so do not plant weapons here, do not blow up the situation, otherwise the consequences will be very serious."
Writer Zakhar Prilepin, who, after the arrest of a group of Russians in Belarus, said that he had served with some of the arrested people in the Donbass, told RBC that he knows people whom the Belarusian authorities call PMC Wagner militants.
"There were several groups of them. Lukashenko says that all this is not true and the tickets are fictitious, but those people were traveling in several groups to a third country. One group had already left, but another one, which was supposed to leave next, was intercepted," Prilepin said. He noted that he did not know exactly how many people arrived in Belarus, but some of them had left for a third country for sure.
"One can call them whatever you like, but I know them and I know where they were going," the writer said, adding that the arrested individuals had no intention to do anything in relation to Belarus. The detained Russians, he said, were part of the group that was supposed to leave last.
The United States has imposed new sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which still remains under construction