Wagner Group Recruiting Exposed in Second NATO Country

Another NATO country has joined Poland in accusing the Kremlin-funded Wagner Group of attempting to recruit mercenaries on its territory.

The Latvian State Security Service (VDD) told Newsweek the Wagner Group has kick-started recruitment in Latvia, saying it had identified “direct and indirect invitations” on social media networking sites for residents to join the paramilitary outfit.

The development comes a day after Polish authorities detained two Russian citizens who are accused of spreading “propaganda” related to the Wagner Group, the mercenary outfit headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, which was involved in an uprising against the Kremlin in June. Poland had previously recently voiced concerns about potential provocations from the group, which has been based in neighboring Belarus since the end of Prigozhin’s aborted June 24 mutiny.

Last week, Polish media reported that stickers bearing the Wagner Group logo had been distributed in Warsaw and Krakow that said in English: “We are here—join us.” The stickers reportedly contained QR codes that redirect to a Russian website about the paramilitary group.

Wagner Group fighters are seen in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don late on June 24, 2023. Russian paramilitary outfit the Wagner Group has kick-started recruitment in NATO member Latvia, the country’s state security service was cited by local media as saying on Tuesday.

NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have strengthened border security since the Wagner Group relocated to Belarus.

“VDD has not detected ‘Wagner’ recruitment stickers similar to those discovered in Poland or other propaganda materials of the Wagner group at public spaces in Latvia,” the secret service said.

Baltic news aggregator Delfi reported that citizens and non-citizen residents in Latvia are prohibited from serving in the armed forces or a military organization of another state that threatens the country’s national security, and that doing so is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Some members of the Wagner Group, who were involved in Prigozhin’s armed uprising in Russia on June 24, relocated to Belarus as part of a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Earlier in August he said that Wagner Group members are being used by Minsk’s armed forces to “pass on experience” to Belarusian troops.

Wagner’s chief Prigozhin hasn’t been seen in public since the end of the failed mutiny, when he departed from Russia’s southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti published a video at the time showing him leaving by car. The Belarusian leader said that he had made an agreement with the Wagner boss on de-escalation, offering him and his fighters “an absolutely profitable and acceptable option for resolving the situation, with security guarantees.”

The Wagner Group played a crucial role in Russia’s push to capture the Ukrainian industrial city Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

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