Russia’s ally Belarus announced Wednesday that it is moving military equipment and troops to combat a terrorist threat. This comes amid indications Moscow might be putting pressure upon its client, urging him to create a new front for the conflict against Ukraine.
Alexander Lukashenko was a Russian-trained leader who oversaw the suppression of a revolt in Belarus two years back. He has since allowed Belarus to be used as a base for Russia’s invasion, although he has not permitted his army to join it.
Recent weeks saw increasing Moscow involvement in Belarus, culminating with Sergei Shoigu’s unannounced flight to Minsk on Saturday. Without disclosing any new terms, he and Viktor Khrenin, his Belarusian counterpart signed amendments to their security cooperation agreement.
According to Ukraine, thousands of Russian soldiers have been stationed in Belarus since October. Belarusian authorities are increasingly referring to a “terrorism threat” by partisans from the other side of the border. Lukashenko ordered the military to collect information on reservists before the year ends.
According to state media BelTA, the Belarus Security Council said that troops and equipment would move in Belarus over the coming two days. It stated that some roads and transport routes would be closed and that imitation weapons will be used to train.
The statement did not provide details on the numbers of soldiers or the types of hardware to be moved or the locations of transport and roads that would have to be closed. It also didn’t give any information about the nature or purpose of the training exercises. Minsk residents said that there was no evidence of any unusual activity.
Some Western diplomats were skeptical of Belarus joining the war in the past. They noted that Belarus had a small army and that Moscow was wary to provoke public opposition which would weaken Lukashenko.
Officials from Ukraine also stated that they believe Russia does not yet have sufficient troops in Belarus for an attack. They suggested instead that action close to the border might be used as a decoy.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, the think tank believes that Belarus has launched an “information operation” in order to fix Ukrainian forces at the border.
Analysts believe the recent activity could be an indication that Belarus may send troops.
For a number of months, Belarus has been planning to enter the Russian war. “Every capability they will need to go into war has been tested,” Konrad Muzyka (a Belarusian expert at Rochan Consulting, based in Poland) told Reuters. He described drills for mobilizing troops, and even managing the postal office during wartime.
We cannot rule out the possibility of Belarus joining the war. Although I do not know if this is the case, all military indicators are pointing to a more aggressive stance by Belarusian armed force.
Officials in Ukraine were working Wednesday to repair power damage from the Russian missile strike that was launched Monday after the apparent Ukrainian drone attacks on two Russian airbases.
Although Ukraine does not claim responsibility for these drone strikes, it has made a celebration of the newfound ability to penetrate Russian air defenses hundreds of kilometers.
Russia’s “special military operation”, launched in February, claimed that Ukraine’s close ties to the West were a security risk. Kyiv and allies claim that the invasion of Ukraine was an illegal war against aggression. The war has resulted in thousands of deaths, with at least 6700 civilians being killed by the United Nations. Russia has denied intentionally targeting civilians and committing atrocities in occupied territories.
The U.N. Human Rights Office released Wednesday a report detailing the deaths of 441 civilians in Russian executions and attacks during the conflict in northern Kyiv and Sumy.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the actual number of people who died in the three areas was probably much greater. This report examined the time period between the invading force’s beginning on February 24th and the end of the Russian invasion.
Requests for comments from the Russian defense and foreign ministries were not answered immediately.
The report discovered that many of the bodies found in the new report had signs suggesting that they might have been deliberately killed. OHCHR continued to investigate additional deaths of civilians reported in three areas at the end of October.