In Lviv-Belarus, Ukraine, Constantine Sushik was a graphic designer who used his skills to support the opposition to President Alexander G. Lukashenko, a powerful figure who has been in power for nearly 28 years. The movement collapsed in a wave of crackdowns after hundreds of thousands of people protested Lukashenko’s fraudulent reelection in 2020.
Instead of planning a political campaign, Mr. Sushik is now using Kalashnikov assault rifles to fight him and his patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine, not Belarus.
31-year-old Suschik is one of the hundreds of Belarusian dissidents who joined the Kastus Karinouski battalion, a volunteer unit supporting the defense of Ukraine as part of the official army. Unlike the thousands of foreign fighters who poured into Ukraine to fight Russia, Mr. Sushik was already in exile in Kyiv.
“As soon as the war began, we decided to stay here because we didn’t really have a place to run, our country was lost under occupation,” said the private suburbs of the Ukrainian capital. In a telephone interview from a training center, Suschik said, because he heard shooting in the distance.
“Kyiv has been bombed and realizes that it is the only real chance, the last chance, to regain Belarus, protect Ukraine and actually make this world a better place.”
From the beginning of the war, Lukashenko allowed Moscow to use the setting in Belarus, which has a 674-mile border with Ukraine. Russian troops have flowed from Belarus to Ukraine in an attempt to seize Kyiv, but so far have not been successful. Western intelligence is closely watching for signs that Belarus may send its troops to support Russia’s attacks.
“We have common enemies, Putin and Lukashenko,” said Sergei Vesparov, a former journalist in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, who joined the battalion in exile in Ukraine. “These are the two who unleashed this war.”
In a telephone interview, Vesparov said the fate of Ukraine and Belarus is mixed.
“If Kyiv falls, it will be bad for everyone, including Belarus,” he said. “Belarus is already occupied. Russian troops are in Belarus. Russian supplies are sent from Belarus, Russian soldiers are handled there, and from the territory of Belarus missiles they are targeting Ukraine.”
Belarusian opposition leader, Svyatrana Tihanovskaya, Expressed on Twitter Her support for the battalion, posted a photo of a sign designed by Suschik.
“Together forever,” she wrote using the red and white colors of the Belarusian opposition movement and the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag.
The battalion was formed a few days after the full-scale invasion began. Belarusians and new hires who were members of the other group announced on March 9 a unit named after the 19th-century Belarusians who led the rebellion against the Russian Empire. Posting to social media channels ends with “glory”. To Ukraine! Long Live Belarus! Both are the slogans of the democratization movements of each country.
“All Belarusians are responsible for the situation in Ukraine,” read one funding request posted on Telegram on March 10. “Since silence is also murder.”
Suschik said there was no way to confirm his claim, but more Belarusians were arriving to join a battalion with “hundreds” of members. Many come from places like Poland and Lithuania, both hosting large Belarusian communities, following the crackdown that began in 2020.
“This is to separate me, and for many, from the Lukashenko administration, which is supported only by a small part of society, from the majority who support Ukraine or will never participate in the aggression. It’s important, “said former Belarusian Pavel Lukashenko. A diplomat who left the service in 2020 and is an analyst at the European Foreign Relations Council.
On the 4th after the war, Mr. Lukashenko held a referendum expressing concern that Russia could deploy short-range nuclear weapons in Belarus, abandoning Belarus’s non-nuclear status.
“These people in the battalion reveal another image,” Slunkin said. “They are showing Ukraine that the Belarusians are demanding freedom and helping them fight for freedom in Ukraine.”
He added: “In 2020, the battle between democracy and dictatorship took place in Belarus, but Belarus was not well supported. Now the battle is taking place in Ukraine.”
Mr Slankin also said he believed that the involvement of asylum seekers was important to the country’s long-term reputation. Because many Belarusians abroad, most of whom left for Mr Lukashenko, were considered to have come from the invading nation, a war similar to what sometimes happened to the Russians who fled Putin’s crackdown.
Many of the tens of thousands of Belarusians who fled to Ukraine have moved again, Slankin said, but many have never obtained a residence permit and therefore do not have the same rights to legal protection. Because they are facing problems in the European Union as Ukrainian refugees. Many are blunt because Ukraine has frozen the bank accounts of Belarusian citizens.
Newly created soldiers Mr. Sushik and Mr. Vesparov said they faced suspicions early in the war and were cross-examined by police as their country was used as a stage by Russia. Their main motive was to defeat Putin and Lukashenko, both of whom said they wanted to show Ukraine and the world that the Belarusians did not support the destruction caused by the war.
“Our main mission here is not to lose what we have achieved in 2020,” Suschik said, referring to the courageous and globally acclaimed Belarusian protest. rice field. “And make sure that Belarusians around the world are not recognized as the same invaders and enemies, and that they are not allies of our enemies.”
Russia-Ukraine War: Significant Progress
Lukashenko accused him of madly dismissing Belarusian fighters and stealing the money they had collected in a meeting with representatives of their security agencies on March 15.
“They shout,’No war, no war!’, Forming a battalion of crazy citizens everywhere,” he said. Even if a diaspora or someone abroad collects and sends money, 99 percent of this money will fit in their pocket. “
In fact, the battalion is not particularly well equipped. A Belarusian man in the Czech Republic began collecting money for his battalion to buy bulletproof vests.
“Even Somali pirates are more equipped than some of us,” Kirill Yakimovic told Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. He raised thousands of dollars to buy equipment for them.
People in Belarus are also helping in other ways, such as disabling the tracks used to supply Russian soldiers across national borders.
“Currently, there is no rail connection between Ukraine and Belarus,” Oleksandr Kamyshin, director of the Ukrainian state railroad company, told CurrentTime, a Russian-language media backed by the US government. “I am grateful to the Belarusian railroad workers for what they are doing,” he said.
Two Belarusian applicants have already died. On March 4, after fighting at the Battle of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, former computer programmer Ilya Frenov, who was part of the Belarusian territorial defense company of the Azov Battalion, was killed.
On March 13, 31-year-old Aleksei Skobble, who had been fighting for Ukraine since the start of the war in 2014, was also killed.
Russia is also looking for Belarusians to fight. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that it has the following information …