Why Belarusians are Wary of Being Dragged Into War with Ukraine

by Joshua Brown
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Ruslan, an engineer in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, was recently asked to join a military drill. This came as a surprise to him when he received this order from a conscription office, causing him to worry that his country could get involved in the war taking place in Ukraine. The government will be having thousands of men take part in these drills to prepare people for potential conflict.

People are saying that Belarus won’t fight against Ukraine, but I can hear airplanes from Russia flying over my house and going to Machulishchi air base (which is near Minsk). I’m 27-years old and I asked not to use my real name because of safety reasons.

Russia has sent their troops to Belarus and it looks like they are turning the country into a military base. Everyone is afraid that before long, Belarusians won’t have the luxury of staying away from all war happening around them.

Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, has invited a lot of Russian soldiers to his country and gave permission to Russia to attack Ukraine on February 24, 2022. He also offered to keep some of Russia’s nuclear weapons in his country. However, he chose not to take part in the conflict himself.

Critics and people who do not support him say that if Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko gets even more entangled in the Ukrainian situation, it might make people really mad at him again. That could mean reversing his power after staying in control for almost 29 years.

Lukashenko meets with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s current president, to get help with his political beliefs and also economic aid so he can still be in charge despite people protesting against him, getting arrested in huge numbers, and the West giving out punishments because of the election last year that many think was rigged.

Russia invading Ukraine isn’t popular in Belarus, a country that’s near the 620-mile (1,000-kilometer) border of Ukraine and where lots of people have friends or family there.

For example, Svyatlana – a 54-year-old manager nearby the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in Luninets – mentioned that the citizens in her area don’t understand why this war is necessary. She asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

Recently she also said a new air defense unit had been built near her city, increasing worries about going to war as more soldiers come in.

Aliaksandr Alesin, a Belarusian military expert, said that if the country’s army (which has 45,000 members) is ordered to go into Ukraine, many of them are likely to refuse.

He added that President Lukashenko won’t issue this command because it would cause many in the army to be angry and turn their weapons against him.

President Lukashenko of Belarus allowed Russia to put nuclear weapons in his country because he thinks NATO is plotting against him. He said that “they won’t attack us with nuclear bombs.”

By July 1, Russia will finish building special storage places for nuclear weapons in Belarus. They also changed some of the country’s airplanes so they can use nuclear weapons and gave them short-range missiles with a nuclear warhead. Russia trained the people of Belarus to operate these airplanes and missiles.

During the Cold War, Belarus had a lot of missiles tipped with nuclear weapons that belonged to Moscow. Alesin said that there are even today lots of places where these missiles could be stored. When the USSR (Soviet Union) fell apart in 1991, the US helped move all those nuclear weapons from Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to Russia.

Putin and Lukashenko from Belarus want to build a powerful nuclear fort which will cause Western politicians to be worried. This fort can even reach other countries, like Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, and part of Germany. These missiles will make people feel uneasy for quite a long time.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a political leader who was running against Lukashenko in the 2020 election, said that if Russia put their nuclear weapons into Belarus, it would make the people of Belarus become prisoners.

Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya said that if Russia deploys nuclear weapons in Belarus, it could put the lives of Belarusians at risk and also cause more strict actions from other countries. She added that because of Lukashenko and Putin’s ‘war games’, western countries will take stronger measures against them.

The sanctions given to Belarus have severely harmed their economy, which dropped significantly last year. Lukashenko hopes that trading more with Russia will help him out, as there are orders for high-tech parts for weapons from Moscow.

Alesin also said that Russia is giving Belarus cheap energy sources and loans for controls of the military infrastructure in exchange of access to its market.

Last year, Putin asked 300,000 Russian citizens to join in on a military mobilization. Now, many of them are training with Belarusian officers at multiple locations in Belarus. This situation has caused some tension since people don’t like the Russian presence there. A political analyst named Valery Karbalevich said that this involvement is making a lot of people unhappy.

In Belarus, a large group of people are doing things which make their leaders angry. They’re blowing up train tracks, causing damage to Russian warplanes, and attacking websites that belong to the government. Meanwhile, Belarus is becoming more and more involved in a war against another country, making people even more upset. Because of this, the leaders are using stricter punishments to try and stop them.

BYPOL, a group of former soldiers and guards who do not like Lukashenko, said that it flew a drone to attack a Russian plane at Machulishchi air base near Minsk in February. The police arrested one person and thirty others who are charged with terrorism and could get the death penalty if they are found guilty.

More than 300 people were arrested in different places in the country because they are suspected to be connected to a group of fighters called guerrillas. The person leading this group, Aliaksandr Azarau, said that if Belarus joins a war happening in Ukraine, it might help their group since they formed after last year’s protests.

If Belarus starts getting coffins from Ukraine, it will likely cause protests. These protests can be squashed by using force, and President Lukashenko knows that going to war could make it worse by increasing the number of people joining in against the government.

When Putin started his attack, soldiers from Russia marched into Ukraine from Belarus in an effort to take over Kyiv. Kyiv was just 90 kilometers (55 miles) away from the invasion point. Western Ukraine, including Lviv and Lutsk which are important railway stations for getting weapons from the West, could be taken over by Belarus easily.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently paid a visit to the border guards in Volyn, a region located on the northwest side of the country. He asked them to be extra careful and watch out for possible attacks from Belarus.

So far, the president of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenko, has not wanted to start a war with Ukraine. However, recently there have been more military activities in Belarus and Ukrainian experts are worried that Russia might be increasing their army presence in Belarus too. Ukraine is monitoring the situation carefully as they don’t want Lukashenko to give Putin’s requests, except for those involving Belarusian soldiers.

The Belarusian analyst Karbalevich said that Lukashenko is not willing to join a war. However, Moscow might pressure Kyiv (Ukraine’s capital) by threatening to send troops into Ukraine from Belarus. This threat might make Ukraine be forced to leave lots of soldiers on the border.

The Belarusian military doesn’t have a lot of power, but Russia is still using it to threaten Ukraine. That way Putin can keep Ukraine and the countries in the West worried about what might happen. This gives him control over them without having to get into a real fight. You can follow all the news about this going on between Russia and Ukraine here: https://bigbignews.net/russia-ukraine-war

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