The U.S. State Department has reacted to the statement voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the alleged involvement of American intelligence in the emergence of the Russian Private Military Company Wagner's troops in Belarus.
Putin has accused Ukrainian and U.S. intelligence agencies of a joint effort to deploy Wagner troops in Belarus as a "strike force to destabilize" the country during the elections, Voice of America reported.
The U.S. is aware of reports of Russia's use of puppet forces, said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, according to a report by Voice of America's Ukrainian service, delivered in Ukrainian.
Such spins shift public focus away from the actual problem, which Russia is using these forces to cover up own stubborn efforts to embarrass other governments, deepen internal divisions, support autocrats, and sow chaos in order to give Russia the opportunity to influence events globally, according to the U.S. State Department's speaker.
Read alsoZelensky on alleged disruption of intel operation: "Nonsense"Russia's overt efforts to deprive the people of Belarus of their sovereign rights are unacceptable, the U.S. believes.
Ortagus also noted that the United States supports the right of the Belarusian people to elect their leaders through truly free and fair elections with independent observers, and beyond the influence of the Russian special services.
Moscow's impudent use of Wagner PMC mercenaries worldwide enriches the Russian elite, harming the countries where it operates. Russia’s use of influence campaigns to weaken opponents and muffle the voice of the people is unacceptable, Ortagus said, according to VOA's report.
Wagner PMC in Belarus: background
- On July 29, a group of PMC Wagner troops were detained in Belarus – 32 were apprehended outside Minsk and another one – detained in the country's south.
- Among them were those who had fought against Ukraine in the Donbas war.
- According to the initial reports by the Belarusian law enforcement agencies, they had been tipped about the deployment of over 200 fighters to destabilize the country amid the election campaign.
- Belarus turned to the Ukrainian authorities to verify the detainees' involvement in crimes committed in Ukraine's Donbas.
- On July 30, Ukraine began consultations with Belarus on the group's extradition.
- On August 7, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said Ukraine had to prove the guilt of the detained mercenaries to seal the extradition.
- On August 9, Lukashenko said he had received a five-page letter from Vladimir Putin with "information on the situation around the detention of Wagner troops."
- On August 11, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine sent inquiries to their Belarusian counterparts, seeking the extradition of 28 PMC Wagner troops. All 28, including nine citizens of Ukraine, had been charged in Ukraine with participation in a terrorist organization.
- On August 14, Belarus handed 32 Wagner troops back to Russia.
- In an interview with Russia 1 TV channel, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the emergence of Wagner PMC troops in Belarus was a result of a joint operation by U.S. and Ukraine intelligence agencies.
- Ukraine security and intelligence agencies said the allegation of involvement in the "Wagner PMC in Belarus" story was a Russian setup aimed to undermine Ukraine's image.