The Growing Threat of the Regime’s Direct Participation in the Russo-Ukrainian War
The Belarusian regime continues to take escalatory steps as a legal basis is formulated to permit the entry of the Belarusian army into the war against Ukraine as part of the Regional Group of Forces (RGF) of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation. Minsk and Moscow discuss the role of Belarus during the summer-autumn military campaign. Meanwhile, new detachments of Russian troops are beginning to arrive in Belarus, some from the Ukraine war zone.
The Belarusian regime continues to indicate preparations for entering the war. At a meeting of the 9th session of the House of Representatives on May 31st, a draft law, “On the People’s Militia”, was adopted at the first reading.
The People’s Militia is an armed formation of volunteers tasked with assisting the territorial bodies of internal affairs, ensuring martial law is upheld, and protecting property from criminal interference. Local defence councils can deploy the militia for other tasks as required. The militia will be created by presidential decree and organised by the local executive and administrative bodies and defence councils, who will determine the size and structure of units considering the availability of volunteers. Militia units will be disbanded with the abolition of the state of emergency or based on a presidential decree.
The initiative creates a substitute for the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, should they be deployed outside Belarus along the same lines as the Russian National Guard’s participation in the so-called special military operation.
Deputies also ratified the protocol amending the December 19th, 1997, agreement on the Joint Provision of Regional Security. The protocol creates a legal basis for deploying the Regional Grouping of Forces (RGF) outside Belarus and the three Russian border regions of Pskov, Smolensk, and Bryansk. The grouping of forces now has extraterritorial scope, the boundaries of which are determined by the locations of Russian formations and RGF, which implicitly extends to Ukrainian territory.
The adoption of the law and the ratification of the protocol took place following recent successful sabotage raids in the Belgorod region by the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion from the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It also coincided with a visit by high-ranking representatives of the Russian special services to Minsk on May 31st, including Security Council of Russia’s Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, FSB head Alexandr Bortnikov, and head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin.
There was more to the visit than just the meeting of the heads of security agencies and special services of the CIS member states on June 1st. Given the successful sabotage operations in the Russian border regions and the preparation of the Ukrainian strategic counteroffensive, the fulfilment of military-political obligations by Belarus within the framework of the Union State during the summer-autumn military campaign was also in the agenda.
Lukashenka used the meeting to reaffirm his geopolitical loyalty to the Kremlin and express regret that joint military actions did not resolve the “Ukrainian issue” in 2014-2015 when Ukraine did not have a combat-ready army. Lukashenka also believes that Western countries and Ukraine are preparing to force a change of power in Minsk, which provides an excuse for pre-emptive entry into the war on the side of Russia. Satellite images of the so-called “Khrenin Line” (named so informally after the name of the regime’s Minister of Defence) near Homiel indicate fortification preparations for military operations.
Almost simultaneously, personnel, weapons and equipment from Russian armed forces began to arrive in Belarus. The Belarusian Ministry of Defence of Belarus claims this is a planned rotation of Russian units to increase combat capabilities. Meanwhile, other Russian divisions arrive from the Ukraine combat zone, which may indicate a concentration of Russian troops and the strengthening of the RGF under the guise of preparing for the joint exercises “West-2023” and “Union Shield-2023”. After September, such deployments may transform into a new, combined offensive by the RGF from the north. The deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, ready for operational use from July 1st, is apparently also part of this scenario.
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Situation in Belarus