MINSK, 4 October (BelTA) – In the interview to CNN, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko gave a detailed account of the detention of the Wagner group in the summer of 2020. According to the head of state, he learned about the arrival of these people in Belarus solely from Belarusian special services, BelTA informs.
The journalist asked how Belarus learned that these people entered Belarus: “Were you informed by someone, was it the Russians? Was it the Ukrainians?”
“If you want to know the truth, I can give you a detailed account. It is surprising that CNN admitted recently that this was a CIA operation through Ukraine. That raised eyebrow,” Aleksandr Lukashenko started answering this question.
“The CIA denies it,” the interviewer interrupted.
“The CIA denies it? Well, that is their right. They deny everything. I don't insist, either,” the head of state noted.
According to him, as soon as this group of around 30 people crossed the Belarus- Russia border on the Berlin-Moscow highway, the Belarusian security service learned from their sources ‘that 30 armed people were heading our way from the Russian Federation'. “So immediately they got on the radar of the Belarusian security forces. I monitored this every hour, because this is a serious matter. So we monitored them, they tried to check into one hotel, then they checked into another,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to the president, when he learned that these people were in a hotel, he asked the head of the security service: “Can we monitor them in Belarus, find out what they are up to, and why they came here? Can we keep all 30 of them under control?”
“I got a candid answer: we will try, but we can't guarantee that we won't miss some of them. These people were armed, and I didn't know why they came here. So I gave a personal order to detain them all, at night when they checked into the hotel not far from here. We arrested them and put them in an appropriate place. They did not resist, it was impossible to resist. It was a brilliant operation on the part of our security service. One of the guys who took part in the operation died the other day [the KGB officer who was killed in Minsk on 28 September],” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“It provoked a huge scandal in Russia and Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine asked us to extradite them. And I said let the prosecutors general of Russia and Ukraine come to Belarus, negotiate it and take a decision together with our prosecutor general who was to decide on their extradition. Nobody showed up,” Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled the timeline.
According to the head of state, he called his eldest son, who was the president's aide on national security back then and sent him to the detention center where these people were kept. “He went there. I told him to ask them where they wanted to go because neither Ukraine nor Russia seemed to want them. I realized that these men were sent here by someone. He put this question to them and came back saying: they want to go to Russia. I asked, all of them? There were six or so Ukrainian citizens among them. I asked, do they all want to go to Russia? - Yes. - Did you ask the Ukrainians? - They said, only Russia. I said, put them on a bus and take them where they want. He took them there. He gave them food and drink on the way, and they apologized. They asked, and this is noteworthy, whether it was possible for them to come to Belarus as tourists one day? And my son phoned me to ask this. I said, anyone with good intentions can come here,” the president said.
“This is very interesting,” Matthew Chance responded.
Aleksandr Lukashenko asked whether CNN had different information or a different view on this. “Are the things I have just said new to you?” the president asked.
The journalist confirmed that Aleksandr Lukashenko's account of events coincides with what CNN learned. However, he added that there is an allegation in Ukraine that the Belarusian president was tipped off by someone in the Ukrainian government.
“An absolute lie, Matthew. Neither the Ukrainian government, nor the president of Ukraine tipped me off. I was informed by my own security service, the State Security Committee that monitored this Wagner group from the border to the hotel and back. Nobody from Ukraine or Russia phoned me on this matter,” the head of state said.