After a week of rallies and brutal detentions of activists in various Belarusian cities, President Alexander Lukashenko once again expressed confidence that the protesters were organised by people from abroad, naming the countries from which the instigators allegedly came.
“You should understand that you and our children are used as cannon fodder! Today, we have already people who have come here from Poland, Holland, Ukraine, from this “Open Russia,” Navalny and so on. The aggression against the country has already begun,” Lukashenko said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine responded to these statements by expressing outrage over the accusations against Ukrainians.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is concerned about the statements by the leadership of the Republic of Belarus regarding the participation of Ukrainian citizens in the organisation of peaceful protests, we emphasize, in connection with the results of the presidential election. We are outraged that the President of our friendly state accuses Ukrainians of destabilising the situation in Belarus. There is no evidence of this,” the agency said.
In addition, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled that evidence of terrorist activities of 28 mercenaries of the private army Wagner, who were detained in Belarus, was handed over to Minsk in a request for extradition. However, the Belarusian security forces ignored this appeal of Ukraine and returned all the mercenaries to the Russian Federation. So, now they will “continue to commit crimes on the territory of sovereign states.”
The transfer of 32 detained militants was confirmed on Friday, 14 August, by the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, noting that it took place within the framework of the Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance.
Following the dissemination of this information, the Office of the President of Ukraine issued a statement stating that official Kyiv was waiting for a more legally correct and balanced solution to the issue of Wagner militants.
“Ukraine regrets the decision of the Republic of Belarus to hand over to Russia a previously detained group of persons belonging to the private military company Wagner,” the statement said.
In addition, President Volodymyr Zelensky on his Facebook page called the extradition of Russia’s Wagnerians an unfair decision, the consequences of which would be tragic.
“We consider such a decision, to call it mildly, unfair, inconsistent with the spirit of relations between Ukraine and Belarus, based on the principles of respect and mutual assistance. The consequences of this decision will be tragic. We understand that the Wagnerians army will still return to their usual occupation – the spread of war. God forbid that the Belarusian authorities do not have to get another burning, bloodless Donbas on their territory, which all these Wagnerians are very good at creating,” the statement said.
Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danylov reacted more harshly to the transfer of Russian mercenaries by Belarusians, calling such actions an “unfriendly step.”
“Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities have made a non-legal decision that does not correspond to the spirit of bilateral relations and is an unfriendly step towards Ukraine,” the high-ranking official said.
According to him, this decision will have a negative impact on relations between the two countries, as Ukraine has gathered enough evidence of Wagner militants’ involvement in the armed conflict in Donbas as part of illegal armed groups in the Russian Federation.
The Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine stressed that the state “will find the time and opportunity, having the evidence base, to bring all those guilty of crimes in our territory to criminal responsibility, no matter how far away they are hiding.”