PMC arrests in Belarus

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Noted, presently ordered from earlier reports to later reports.

Initial reports

Arrest: night of 28/29 July, 2020.

Belarus news agency reports that 33 Russian citizens have been detained, claiming that they belong to "Wagner" PMC. According to Russian sources, they in fact belong to private security firm "Mar" and after their arrest told Belarus authorities that they are going to Turkey via Belarus. In Turkey they were supposed to sign a contract and proceed to Libya, to guard Zuwarah oil terminal, said to be GNA-controlled. If explanation is correct, that would put them on the side opposite to the one supported by Russia (and allegedly Wagner). Photo, said to be of Mar founder Alexey Marushenko (also Ukr. source here) , may have resemblance with a photo, video from Belarus news report; however this name is not listed in the Belarus report, and Alexey Marushenko has recorded a video stating that he is in Moscow and has no connection to the events. It appears that Belarus' officials fear (or pretend) that detained people are there to "destabilize" Belarus prior to the elections (which Lukashenko is set to win). Lukashenko, despite some tensions, is still Russia's ally, and "destabilizing" Lukashenko seems to go against Russia's interests.

Cassad: The wife of the former head of the MAR PMC Alexander Marushchenko reports that her husband is now in St. Petersburg and the PMC has been liquidated for 4 years. However, according to the extract from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, the company was legally closed only in 2018. According to my information, her owner changed in 2018.
Russian ambassador, Russian FM: they were in Belarus in transit to Istanbul, missed their flight, booking/rebooking done by a Belarus company; no reason to have them detained.

Alleged contract

See Alleged contract on talk page.

Scans in Arabic were posted on Cassad, taken from some Arabic Twitter account post (nature of Twitter accound briefly discussed in the same article.

Alleged specialization

Alleged destination

Criminal case

  • Citizens of the Russian Federation were detained on suspicion of committing a crime - Belarus (criminal) investigation committee, July 30, 2020
    The Russians and Belarus opposition figures are named in the same criminal investigation case:
    In addition, a criminal case was initiated against N. Statkevich, S. Tikhanovsky and other persons on the fact of preparation for mass riots under Article 13, Part 2, Art. 293 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
    Also yesterday, according to the results of a check of operational information received from the special services, 33 citizens of the Russian Federation, employees of the Wagner PMC, who lived on the territory of the Belorusochka sanatorium in the Minsk region, were detained on suspicion of committing the indicated (above) crime.
  • Lukashenko instructed to invite the Prosecutors General of Russia and Ukraine because of the detained Russians - TASS, August 6, 2020
    ...continues on a path which has no good ending ... --Resup (talk) 08:13, 6 August 2020 (UTC)

Other allegations, arrests

Lukashenko

“After that I received information that it had been done by Americans through Ukraine. But Ukrainians said: it is not us, it is America,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Alexander Kots version of events

Border crossing

Long delays both ways are reported, attributed to Russian border guards manually recording passport details and phone numbers

Notes

According to Lukashenko, this was the first group of about 180-200 total. Regular international air travel in Russia opened on Aug.1, 2020, to a very few selected places (which includes Turkey). So at the time of arrival and arrest, air travel to Turkey from Moscow was closed. In principle, it is not inconceivable that the larger group, as indicated, was supposed to travel to several destinations. It is also possible that (at least some) group members were kept in the dark about the final destination, or if they knew, tried not to reveal it, or were genuinely confused about it, etc. Investigators point has merits too, and it is not really clear what happened. Opolchenie people seem to believe that it was a provocation, but they are not clear who would be behind such a provocation. There are also opinions (especially among those critical of authorities in general) that this is the result of ineptitude. Those closer to the official line say that Belarus is a convenient transit point and there is nothing really out of the ordinary, or any crimes committed, etc. At this time it is not clear who is right. --Resup (talk) 11:23, 2 August 2020 (UTC)

Khrustalik comments here. Their questionnaire/application form had (closed down) "Mar" logo, had was to be mailed to "Rosneft" address Contracts were not signed, and signing abroad, ie in Turkey, or maybe further away, was promised (he takes them going abroad not having a contract as unusual). They believed that they will work in Venezuela (or maybe another difficult place--he is not steady here). "Belarusochka" sanatorium was reserved till Aug. 10 (with elections on Aug. 9). According to his info, they were arrested after making a contact with (likely fake) group of radicals, described as of Nazi sort. He thinks it is "подстава" (approx. they were framed/it was a setup, Rus.) He has two theories on aims of such setup, the main being boosting Lukashenko popularity, with alternative version that this is against Russia and the union with Belarus. He hopes it won't end in a tragedy. I'd leave it at that for now. --Resup (talk) 21:01, 2 August 2020 (UTC)

Strelkov interview to Karaulov, August 7, 2020, summary: This group will not be able to do anything in Minsk, they did not have weapons and they are frontline fighters, army, not spetsnaz, they cannot solve militrary-political tasks. They were in transit or maybe used "in the dark". If ordered to participate in Belarus events, (many) will likely refuse.

Analysis

Return to Russia

PMC members comments

32 men have been returned to Russia. One man, who has double citizenship including Belarusian remains in Belarus.

Interview with 3 group members. They believed that they were in transit, and were told by "Larisa Nikolaevna Samarina" doing all bookings that there was a problem with connecting flight from Istanbul to Venezuela via Cuba and that she re-booked their flight from Minsk on 30 July. They never saw or met Samarina. They were not there for any assignment to do with Belarus, and were not closely following events there, as they believed they are in transit in a friendly country. Change from Livia or Syria to Venezuela assignment happened when they were told that "Seregey Petrovich" was killed, and a new curator, "Artur" was assigned. They received some moneys for travel expenses and subsistence. When the flight was delayed, they were told that they will still receive their agreed salary while waiting in Belarus.

"Russian PMC about Belarus without cuts / Bags on the heads / Beating / Lukashenko's apologies" - War Gonzo, August 29, 2020

  • PMC's call sign "Zloi" (angry). He and others met Lukashenko's son after the release.

Putin comments