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May 1 – May 7, 2023
Security issues

Despite assurances that the West has no intention of attacking, the regime continues to prepare for war

The situation has not changed
Despite assurances that the West has no intention of attacking, the regime continues to prepare for war

Despite Ukraine and the West disavowing any intent to attack Belarus, the Belarusian regime continues to prepare for war due to fears surrounding an imminent counteroffensive by the Ukrainian army, successful sabotage attacks on Russian territory seen as having the potential to expand to Belarus, and political destabilisation within the country.

Visiting the Vetka district of the Gomel region, Lukashenka stated that Ukraine and Poland would not attack, reversing his previously stated position based on reports from some “Westerners” with whom contacts are maintained. A few days before these statements, on April 24th, Lukashenka made an unadvertised visit to Viskuli in the Brest region, located in Belavezhskaya Pushcha near the border with Poland and Ukraine. He remained there for four hours before proceeding on an inspection tour of the Hrodna region.

Given recent statements, it can be inferred that the purpose of the trip to Belavezhskaya Pushcha was a secret meeting leading to these non-aggression assurances. At the end of March, the head of the General Directorate of External Security of the French Ministry of Defence (DGSE), Bernard Émié, paid an unannounced visit to Minsk to convince Lukashenka not to become more directly involved in the war in Ukraine.

It is possible that a new round of such negotiations took place in Viskuli regarding two topics.

First, the West and Ukraine are concerned about Minsk’s decision to deploy Russian nuclear weapons. The official reason for Minsk requesting this was the alleged intentions of Ukraine and Western allies to expand military operations to Belarusian territory during the spring counteroffensive. In response, Lukashenka threatens to use nuclear weapons.

Secondly, Kyiv and Western capitals aim to ensure that the Belarusian regime does not expand its participation in the war, particularly in the form of a Belarusian army offensive from the north, while Ukraine conducts a counteroffensive in the south and east. Such a scenario would force Ukraine to transfer resources to the north, which would affect the overall pace of the counter-offensive.

Despite Lukashenka’s statements and secret negotiations, the regime continues to prepare for an alternate scenario. Following successful railway sabotage in the Bryansk region involving a Belarusian Railways freight train, Lukashenka convened a meeting to discuss issues of security, law and order, and border protection.

The KGB predicts a significant escalation of the situation in border areas in connection with the Ukrainian counteroffensive, including attempts to destabilise the Belarusian domestic situation by “centres abroad” allegedly supervised by foreign special services.

A meeting of the Board of the Border Committee of the Union State was then convened to discuss border protection, considering the existing challenges and threats to border security. The following day, Belarusian border guards began setting up checkpoints on the Belarusian-Russian border and checking documents. Although officially, these measures are related to implementing the ratification agreement on mutual visa recognition, the Belarusian authorities fear that Russia no longer controls its borders with Ukraine, as evidenced by the free entry of sabotage groups into Russian villages.

Given the explosions in the Bryansk region, Belarus is also taking steps to strengthen railway security involving the army, border guards, and special operations forces.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence announced the next phase of a comprehensive combat readiness check. In addition to checks of military forces readiness, a feature of the comprehensive check is preparation for the formation of civilian militia units and training tasks related to maintaining martial law.

The Belarusian regime continues methodical preparations for entering the war and imposing martial law. Western negotiations with the regime to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons and further involvement in the war cannot radically change this, as Minsk has become an instrument of Kremlin foreign and military policy.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.
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