Dressed in camouflage military uniform and holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle, Oleg says he is vigilant even though he has so far seen no sign of the presence of fighters of Russia's Wagner company on the opposite side of the border.

Ukraine's military announced it was strengthening border protection with Belarus by digging trenches and laying mines, after news that a number of Wagner fighters had moved to the neighboring country following their failed insurgency in Russia.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said a large convoy of 60 trucks, buses and large vehicles transported fighters from Wagner to a military base in Belarus early on Saturday.

Oleg, 26, has been patrolling the Slavutech border crossing, which has been closed since Feb. 24 last year, when Russian troops entered the Chernigev region of Belarus at the start of the war, and says Ukraine is ready to "repel" Russian forces, including Wagner.

Since we were "stabbed in the back from Belarusian territory", we do not rule out the possibility of some movements or the deployment of Wagner fighters on Belarusian soil.

The fate of the Russian military group's troops has been uncertain since an agreement between Moscow and Minsk for Wagner to move to Belarus.

Belarus's defence ministry confirmed on Friday that at least some Wagner operatives had arrived and were working as "trainers" for its army.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky played down the move, saying Ukraine was "closely monitoring developments there from a security perspective and, at the moment, there are no major threats."

Activity in the forest

As you drive south to the nearby village of Dnebrowski, signs of activity can be seen in the forest of men dressed in camouflage and fortifications, as well as human dolls placed on the side of the road.

The village's main street includes two shops, a war memorial and a church.

We came across Victor Koren, 76, as he went to the store to buy things, and he showed by drawing lines on the ground with his stick how close his house is to the Dnieper River, which forms the border.

"Of course I'm nervous. Because it is very close. There's a river near us, a border, and these are fighting on the other side of the border," he said, referring to the Russians.

Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has been criticised for ending his rebellion against Moscow and his alliance with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"He was going to Moscow and did not succeed. Why didn't he beat them?"

Ilya Bobok, 20, arranging shelves in a grocery store, said he was confident Ukraine could withstand any new attack.

"The first time they (the Russians) took advantage of the element of surprise. Now I think that won't work. We have people who are trained to fight. Brave men. I think there's nothing to fear."

"They may try, but they're going to get out of here very quickly," he says confidently.

Shop owner Katerina Bobock, 37, has similar confidence in Ukraine's troops: "How can we be nervous when you've seen the men protecting us?"

The woman says she heard in the news about the possible presence of Wagner troops in Belarus, but saw "no indications that anything has changed, the situation is a little calmer, which is a bit worrying."

Under control

On the border, weeds grow on the asphalt road and signs of rust are beginning to appear in customs buildings.

Before the war, about 500 vehicles passed through the crossing point a day.

On the morning of the first day of the invasion on February 24, Ukrainian border guards blew up a road bridge over the Dnieper River, which forms the border with Belarus.

However, Russian forces managed to enter the Chernigev region that day, and heavy fighting ensued until they withdrew in April 2022, and the area is still under occasional bombardment.

Private Oleg says Ukrainian forces estimate the presence of about two thousand Russian military personnel on Belarusian territory, as well as planes and helicopters.

But he stresses that the situation on the border is "under control and calm, we do not record any provocations from the Belarusian side."