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Are Moscow’s Funding of Wagner Group Under Scrutiny After June Putsch Attempt?

The Wagner Group mercenary army is being forced to tighten its belt and cut staff as the fallout continues over founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short-lived rebellion against Russia’s military establishment.

British military officials said Sunday that the Wagner Group appears to be moving toward a “downsizing and reconfiguration process” to save on salary expenses at a time of financial pressure. Moscow moved against some of Mr. Prigozhin’s business interests following the abortive mutiny in June.

“There is a realistic possibility that the Kremlin no longer funds the group,” British military officials said on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

The group’s current paymaster is most likely Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, British officials said. He welcomed the mercenary fighters into his country after he brokered a deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr. Prigozhin that ended the mutiny.

Mr. Lukashenko has frequently cited the Wagner Group’s combat experience as part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and asked them to train Belarusian soldiers.

“If the Russian state no longer pays Wagner, the second most plausible paymasters are the Belarusian authorities,” British officials said. “However, the sizable force would be a significant and potentially unwelcome drain on modest Belarusian resources.”

The Wagner Group appears to be increasing its presence in Belarus following the attempted coup, despite reports that the force will eventually relocate to Russia.

Sources told the Institute for the Study of War that hundreds of vehicles and more than a dozen trailers were recently spotted at a Wagner camp in Tsel, a former military base about 55 miles southeast of Belarus’ capital, Minsk.

“The footage does suggest that Wagner intended to expand its presence in Belarus and believed that elements of the deal ensuring its operations in the country were still in place as of August 3,” the institute said.

The Wagner Group’s presence in Belarus has prompted Poland to increase its troops along the border between the countries. Warsaw has emerged as one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies in its fight against Russia.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced Saturday that up to 10,000 military personnel would be sent to augment the country’s Border Guards force.

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