Ukraine Situation Report: Wagner Begins Training Belarusian Military

Russia’s Wagner Group are now training Belarusian soldiers according to the country’s Ministry of Defense and Reuters. The defense ministry has said that training is taking place near the town of Osipovichi, around 56 miles south of the capital Minsk.

“[Wagner] fighters acted as instructors in a number of military disciplines,” the Belarusian Ministry of Defense added.

The story from Reuters suggests that some of the Wagner fighters have been in Belarus since at least Tuesday.

The news comes a day after the Pentagon said that Wagner mercenaries were no longer participating in “any significant capacity” in combat operations in Ukraine, something you can read more about in our previous reporting.

While the exact whereabouts of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin remain unclear, the following photo recently appeared in the Russian media, allegedly showing him in a field tent somewhere in Belarus. This is where Putin supposedly put him in what seemed to put into defacto exile after his aborted insurrection in southwestern Russia.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko originally said he wanted Wagner mercenaries to setup camp in his country so that they could train his troops based on all their combat knowledge.

“Will tell you about weapons: which worked well, which did not. And tactics, and weapons, and how to attack, how to defend. It’s priceless. This is what we need to take from the Wagnerites,” Lukashenko said shortly after he brokered the deal that ended Prigozhin’s mutiny.

Now we are seeing that play out.

Before we head into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

One of the more remarkable videos to have emerged from the many candidates in the realm of ground-based air defenses in action on the battlefield in Ukraine is this next offering. Filmed from the perspective of a Ukrainian quadcopter drone, the launch of a missile from a Russian Tor series (SA-15 Gauntlet) short-range air defense system is seen clearly, as is the smoke trail from the missile as it spirals toward the target. The missile misses the drone, but just by a matter of feet, possibly due to it being too small of a target to activate the radar-controlled proximity fuze. Check it out here:

Some of the novel technologies and tactics being employed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the ongoing offensive on the east and south of the country are apparent in the following video, said to have been taken on the lower part of the Dnipro River delta. In this riverine environment, Ukrainian soldiers are making use of high-speed assault craft, armed with heavy machine guns, and supported by helicopters and loitering munitions.

Ukraine’s intelligence chief has ruled out the possibility of an invasion of the country from Belarus — for the time being, at least. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed this on Telegram, after a meeting with Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

A new video has emerged showing apparently recent damage sustained by one of the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles supplied to Ukraine by the United States. The vehicle is seen still on the move, despite allegedly having been hit by a round fired by a Russian tank. The projectile is said to have torn off some of the side armor and penetrated the hull, although without any catastrophic results.

While side armor may have saved the crew of that Bradley, the improvised screen added to this Russian Armed Forces T-72B3 main battle tank seems not to have offered the degree of protection hoped for. The so-called cope cages are added to Russian military vehicles in the hope of defeating drone strikes and, to a lesser degree, missile attacks.

Vehicles of a very different caliber now, with photos of a remarkable-looking Mad Max-style battle buggy. The vehicle shown features a gunner perched on the rear, improvised armor, and even a (presumably decorative) sword behind the driver’s position.

Russia claims that its air defenses shot down two U.K.-supplied Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles over Russian-occupied southeast Ukraine yesterday. According to Yevhen Balitsky, the Russian-imposed leader of occupied Zaporizhzhia, undisclosed Russian air defense systems destroyed the two missiles that had been fired against targets in Melitopol and Berdiansk.

Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported that Balitsky took to Telegram today Friday to make the claim, stating “There were no casualties, the infrastructure was not damaged either.”

Russia often claims it destroys equipment donated by the west when it has not, although Storm Shadows have been lost in the conflict.

Speaking of Storm Shadow strikes, photos have also emerged showing the purported damage to the Dune Hotel in the Russian-occupied Azov Sea port city of Berdyansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. This was the location where Russian Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov, deputy commander of the Southern Military District, is said to have been killed in a strike yesterday.

Located about 60 miles from the front lines, Berdyansk is one of the long-distance targets Ukraine can now hit thanks to donated weapons. There have been at least four attacks on the port city in the past few weeks, as you can read about here.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have also claimed the destruction of three Ukrainian drones in the Voronezh region of Russia. Governor Alexander Gusev posted the following account to Telegram today: “Yesterday, a few kilometers from Voronezh, air defense systems detected and destroyed three UAVs. There were no victims, no injuries, no damage.”

Ukraine, too, has claimed the destruction of drones that it says were launched against it by Russia. According to Ukrainian national public broadcaster Suspilne, Ukrainian air defenses shot down 16 out of 17 drones launched overnight. Suspilne reports that air defenses engaged them in the Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions. It also stated that one person was injured, and buildings damaged when a drone hit a utility company in Kryvyi Rih in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Ukraine has jailed a man for 10 years after he was found guilty of plotting sabotage in collaboration with Russia. A Ukrainian court determined that the man, who has not been named, had planned to blow up transport infrastructure in Ukraine as well as to disrupt foreign arms supplies into the country.

Ukraine’s domestic security agency, or SBU said today that it had detained the man in February, prior to him having undertaken any sabotage activities. The SBU added that the man had been fighting against Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine, after which he was recruited by Russian military intelligence.

“In order to carry out the enemy’s task, the criminal conducted reconnaissance of the territory around infrastructure facilities and prepared to place explosives in the most vulnerable places of both transport routes,” the SBU said in a statement.

“However, the SBU employees worked ahead of time and detained the attacker as a result of a multi-stage special operation at the end of February this year.”

The man reportedly was tasked with blowing up two infrastructure objects, said to be in the Rivne region in western Ukraine. This area includes several important road and railway links with Poland, which are vital for the transport of arms for the Kyiv regime.

Sabotage is also the possible reason behind the explosion of a car in a residential sector of the Russian city of Belgorod that sits near the Ukrainian border. Three people were injured in the blast.

Posting to Telegram, the local governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said:

“Unfortunately, there are three victims: a man who was in the car at the time of the explosion, and two bystanders — a mother with a child. All the victims were taken to the city hospitals with shrapnel wounds to the lower extremities. Doctors assess their condition as moderate.”

Gladkov added: “There is no threat to residents of neighboring houses and apartments. Emergency services are on site. The investigating authorities are taking all measures in order to understand the causes of the incident.”

Moscow has claimed that a Ukrainian drone has struck the western Russian town of Kurchatov, in the Kursk region that borders Russia, putting a nearby nuclear power plant at risk. Local authorities accused the West of sponsoring “nuclear terrorism” after the alleged drone strike.

According to Roman Starovoit, the governor of the Kursk region, the Ukrainian drone struck a residential apartment building in Kurchatov. The town is located on the banks of a cooling pond that serves the Kursk nuclear power station.

Taking to Telegram, Starovoit said:

“A drone crashed in the town of Kurchatov overnight. Fortunately, none of the residents were injured. Critical facilities were not damaged as a result of the drone crash and its subsequent detonation.”

Starovoit said that damage was limited to the facade and glazing of one block of flats and that there were no injuries.

And finally, some previous videos showing Ukrainian personnel dealing with landmines have appeared nothing short of hair-raising, but this video shows an altogether more high-tech and precise way of dealing with this battlefield menace. In this footage, we can see Ukrainian troops using NATO-standard M67 grenades dropped from a small drone to clear a path through what appear to be TM-62 anti-vehicle mines. Note the rapid egress of the drone, to ensure it’s not caught in the ensuing blast.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.