Russia is using mercenaries to support autocrats and wreak havoc so Moscow can demonstrate its “global power,” State Department says
In response to a request from the Ukrainian voice of America service to comment on Putin’s claim that the detention of alleged Russian mercenaries in Belarus was a joint operation of American and Ukrainian intelligence services, State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus issued the following statement:
“We are aware of reports of Russia’s treacherous use of puppet forces. These stories distract from the real problem of Russia using these forces as a way to hide its persistent attempts to embarrass foreign governments, exacerbate divisions within society, support autocrats, and, in general, wreak havoc so that Russia can demonstrate its global power. Russia’s public attempts to deny the sovereign rights of the Belarusian people are unacceptable,” said Morgan Ortagus. We support the right of the people of Belarus to self-determination and the choice of their leaders through truly free and fair elections, under independent supervision and without the undue influence of the Russian security services.”
“Moscow’s brutal use of Wagner’s mercenaries around the world only enriches the Russian elite at the expense of the countries in which it operates. The use of campaigns of influence to humiliate opponents and suppress the voice of the people is unacceptable,” Ortagus said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that a group of Russians detained in Belarus as fighters of a private military company were lured into the country as part of an operation by U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence services.
The Belarusian authorities accused the detainees of trying to destabilize the country before the elections, which led to a diplomatic scandal with Russia. Moscow said at the time that the men were members of the private security service and were on their way to a third country.
“People, I repeat, we’re going to work in a third country. They were just lured there, dragged across the border… This operation is a joint operation of Ukrainian special services with the American ones,” Putin said.