Prigozhin Death Opens ‘Window’ for Belarus Partisans, Opposition


A portrait of Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen at an informal memorial near the Kremlin in Moscow on August 24, 2023. Prigozhin and his top commanders are thought to have been killed in a mysterious plane crash on Wednesday.CONTRIBUTOR/GETTY IMAGES

The notorious Wagner Group is decapitated and in disarray after the apparent death of leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and his top lieutenants in a mysterious plane crash in western Russia this week. While the world waits for answers that will likely never come, Wagner forces are in a state of flux.

In Belarus, where Prigozhin and thousands of his fighters went into exile after their abortive June mutiny, satellite images and local reports suggest that Wagner camps are being broken down and units are leaving, perhaps to return to Russia.

The exile deal agreed between Prigozhin and President Vladimir Putin, and facilitated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashaneko, was already reportedly teetering. Prigozhin’s demise may prove the coup de grâce.

Anti-Lukashenko partisans are watching closely, one senior opposition figure told Newsweek, looking for ways to leverage the chaos against the regime in Minsk and its masters in the Kremlin.

“Probably Putin will try to include Wagner mercenaries in the Russian armed forces, or to completely liquidate the organization, which can potentially open some windows of opportunity for Belarus,” Franak Viačorka—the chief political adviser of exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya—told Newsweek.

“Wagner presence in Belarus was an anchor of Russian control of our country and an imminent threat, both to our sovereignty but also to that of our neighbors,” he said.

Viačorka said the exiled opposition is coordinating with activist and guerrilla networks inside Belarus to prepare.

“We are in touch with our informants and volunteers on the ground, collecting every bit of information,” he said. “We’re in touch with sources in the Ukrainian government on this matter, and we are discussing within the Tsikhanouskaya Cabinet what to do next.”We are working with our partisans on this as well. So far, we have not planned any practical activities. We are following and monitoring. But when there will be a window of opportunity, we will use it.”Newsweek has contacted the Belarusian Foreign Ministry by email to request comment.

Trouble in Belarus

Belarusian partisans have been waging a low-intensity war against Lukashenko and the Russian forces based in the country. Moscow used Belarus as a launch pad for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Though the southern push towards Kyiv quickly collapsed, Russian forces have continued using Belarusian territory for training, recuperation, and long-range missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian targets.

The war has tied Lukashenko closer to the Kremlin than ever before. Minsk has long been economically reliant on Moscow, and “Europe’s last dictator”—as Lukashenko has often been called—only managed to cling to power amid mass pro-democratic protests in 2020 thanks to Russian backing.

Subsequent international sanctions have isolated Belarus’ economy, forcing Lukashenko to turn further eastwards. There appears little chance of his rehabilitation in Western eyes, even if Lukashenko has so far avoided sending his own troops into battle despite reported Russian pressure to do so.

The dictator’s willingness to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons and mercenaries—and use both to threaten his European Union-NATO neighbors—has not helped his cause.

The democratic opposition in exile has claimed that Lukashenko’s deepening ties to Moscow have unsettled many Belarusians, including bureaucratic elites, and parts of the military and security establishment on which Lukashenko’s rule rests.

Viačorka said that the Wagner turmoil could “create some turbulence within power elites and others very dependent on Russia right now, it can spark some instability. I think [Prigozhin’s] death will not change everything, but it can change and impact many things. We should be prepared.

“People hated Prigozhin, people hated his troops, and people hated the presence of these mercenaries in our country. We can definitely celebrate. There will be no mourning in our country.”

Wagner Fallout

Russian media has reported that Prigozhin’s body has been identified, along with the remains of Wagner military commander Dmitry Utkin. The bodies are reportedly now undergoing DNA testing for confirmation.

The U.S. and U.K. have both said it is likely that the oligarch-turned-warlord is indeed dead. Putin on Thursday refrained from confirming Prigozhin’s death, though hr offered his condolences to the families of the 10 people abroad the crashed aircraft and described the Wagner chief as a “talented person who made serious mistakes in life.”

It remains unclear what will happen to the Wagner fighters in both Belarus and Russia, as well as those deployed as part of its African operations. The Russian Defense Ministry has, since the June coup, been working to absorb Wagner structures and lucrative business interests. With Prigozhin and his top brass gone, this effort may accelerate.

“It will take time before we understand what’s happening with the Wagner Group in Belarus,” Viačorka said. “It was a huge blow for Lukashenko and his image, because of the security guarantees he gave to Prigozhin, because of his attempts to present himself as a peacemaker and a friend of Prigozhin.””He also understands that he could be a victim of Putin as well,” Viačorka added.

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko are pictured during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 6, 2023. The two men have drawn closer since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.CONTRIBUTOR/GETTY IMAGES

Samuel Ramani, the author of Putin’s War on Ukraine and an associate fellow at the British Royal United Services Institute think tank, told Newsweek he sees little reason for Wagner to remain in Belarus.

“Belarus was a parking spot for the Wagner Group when Prigozhin was alive, and for the mercenaries who clearly demonstrated that they would not under any circumstances fight for the Russian Defense Ministry,” Ramani explained. “Keeping them in a place where they could be monitored and watched was a lot more preferable than having them running around in Russia, unemployed with guns, with military experience, and with a vendetta against the military leadership and the government.

“If Lukashenko is not continuing to pay these Wagner forces and Prigozhin’s access to sanctions busting and financing routes are gone, the Russian government is either going to nationalize these operations in Belarus and basically convert this into some kind of a Russian military base, and start by paying for these soldiers themselves, or the whole apparatus is going to collapse.”

Right now, I don’t know whether Russia really sees that much strategic value in keeping the Wagner Group forces there if they are being paid off their own payroll—salaries are often twice as high as what Russian regular soldiers have been used to,” Ramani said. “It’s maybe not worth it for them.”


  1. The Belarusian partisans and opposition had several opportunities to get into action. This situation is yet another one. What are they waiting for?

  2. Germany’s chief bitch Faeser wants to prosecute the saboteurs of the pro-RuSSia pipeline Nordstream 2!!!

  3. Denmark wants to make it a criminal offense to burn the Quran, but gang-rapes and sexist violence by muslims remain widely tolerated.

    • It’s another reason why muslim threats and violence is so successful on a continent that has lost its courage and its soul. If they don’t like something, they protest, make threats, and act violently, and sooner or later, the various jellyfish factions will cater to their needs and wishes.

  4. Japan pouring radioactive crap into the Pacific for the next 30 years??? Can’t they just dump the whole shit at once? The ocean could recover in less than two decades. Instead the mess will never end! 🤒

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