Latvia and Lithuania on Tuesday urged NATO to strengthen its eastern border in anticipation of Russian private military group Wagner setting up shop in neighboring Belarus, Reuters reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Wagner fighters will be offered the choice of relocating to Belarus as part of a deal that ended Wagner's rebellion mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin arrived in Belarus on Tuesday.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told reporters in Paris that the move calls for different security assessments. "We have seen the capabilities of those mercenaries," Rinkevics said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the speed with which Wagner had advanced on Moscow – driving hundreds of kilometers in a one-day race towards the capital – showed that the defense of Baltic states should be firmed up.
Landsbergis said that Latvia and Lithuania lie only a few hundred kilometers away, and it would take Wagner just 8-10 hours to suddenly appear somewhere in Belarus close to Lithuania.
"We need to take the defense of the Baltic region very seriously," he said.
Wagner's arrival in Belarus should be viewed "in light of the NATO summit and all discussions that we are having about defense, deterrence and the necessary decisions to strengthen the security of the eastern flank," said Latvia's Rinkevics.
Germany said on Monday it was ready to station a 4,000-strong army brigade in Lithuania permanently. Landsbergis told his French counterpart that Paris could help with air defenses.
Editor: Marcus Turovski