February 12 – February 18, 2024
Security issues

The regime is making up a reason for conflict with Ukraine, but at the moment, it seems more for local consumption

The situation got worse
The regime is making up a reason for conflict with Ukraine, but at the moment, it seems more for local consumption

The regime’s presentation of the detention of two Ukrainians and one Belarusian, following a counter-terrorist operation on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, suggests it was an interception of a reconnaissance and sabotage group. The regime claims the group’s supposed mission included preparing terrorist attacks on the territories of Belarus and Russia. Whether this incident is fabricated or not, the regime is currently using it to maintain tensions within Belarusian society rather than as a justification for going to war with Ukraine.

On February 15, a newspaper, citing the KGB department for the Gomel region, initially reported a counter-terrorism operation (CTO) in the Lelchitsy district, which local authorities later labeled as an exercise. The Belarusian authorities later corrected this version, revealing that a group was detected entering Belarus from the Ukrainian side on the night of February 14-15 in the Lelchitsy district. The penetration allegedly occurred simultaneously from different places in the complex landscape of the border section, featuring wooded areas with water, some reaching depths of 3 meters. Consequently, an anti-terrorist operation was conducted on February 15, resulting in the detention of individuals described as “participants of a sabotage and reconnaissance group consisting of citizens of Ukraine, Belarus, and their accomplices.” The CTO area was cordoned off.

The KGB’s special forces unit “Alpha” played a role in the arrest, arriving in the CTO area via three helicopters. Security forces were identified by “KGB” stripes on their uniforms, with one of them sporting a “Z” symbol on their helmet.

Later, the KGB released the names of the detainees—Ukrainian citizens Serhiy and Pavlo Kabarchuk (father and son) and Belarusian Vital Ulasiuk. The KGB claimed they were found with explosive devices and other means of destruction allegedly provided by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) before crossing the border.

According to the KGB, the explosive devices carried by the sabotage and reconnaissance group were intended for terrorist attacks on the territories of Russia and Belarus. The delivery of the group to Belarus was purportedly organized by the SBU, whose employees, along with the State Border Service of Ukraine, conducted additional reconnaissance in the area before the CTO. Activity from Ukraine, including aerial and other forms of reconnaissance, was noted during the CTO.

It later emerged that the detained Kabarchuk father and son were under investigation in Ukraine for drug smuggling, with their bail period expiring on the day of crossing the border. In a video on Belarusian state channels on February 16, detainee Serhiy Kabarchuk, with a black eye, spoke about criminal prosecution in Ukraine, alleging that they were set up by the SBU. He claimed the SBU promised to drop the case in exchange for transporting the “cargo” to Belarus to be buried. Information about the detained Belarusian Vital Ulasiuk indicates that he is 53 years old, resides in Brest, and supports the “Russian world.”

These circumstances strongly suggest that the CTO was staged, and the individuals involved were likely smugglers attempting to evade responsibility in Ukraine on Belarusian territory. These events fit into the regime’s broader pattern of maintaining tension within Belarusian society, consistent with statements by security ministers, particularly the commander of the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mikalai Karpiankou, about destabilization attempts on the eve of the so-called single voting day. It’s conceivable that other power structures may soon report similar “successes” within the framework of institutional competition.

Despite this, Aliaksandr Lukashenka confirmed the information about neutralizing the sabotage and reconnaissance group at a meeting of the Belkoopsoyuz and asserted that saboteurs had been detained in Belarus. He claimed they traversed from Ukraine through swamps to transfer explosives for sabotage, primarily in Russia and Belarus. He used this example to urge officials and representatives of consumer cooperation to remain united and monolithic. According to him, such attempts by the sabotage and reconnaissance groups from the Ukrainian side allegedly occur two to three times a week.

He also took the opportunity to reaffirm his loyalty to the Kremlin, stating that he cannot allow Russia’s strategic defeat, as it would lead to the division of Belarusian territory with the involvement of Poland.

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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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