Anti-Russia Guerrillas in Belarus Take on ‘Two-Headed Enemy’

10 Mar 2023

In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, Russian soldiers take part in drills at an unspecified location in Belarus. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

After Russia invaded Ukraine, guerrillas from Belarus began carrying out acts of sabotage on their country’s railways, including blowing up track equipment to paralyze the rails that Russian forces used to get troops and weapons into Ukraine.

In the most recent sabotage to make international headlines, they attacked a Russian warplane parked just outside the Belarusian capital.

“Belarusians will not allow the Russians to freely use our territory for the war with Ukraine, and we want to force them to leave,” Anton, a retired Belarusian serviceman who joined a group of saboteurs, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

“The Russians must understand on whose side the Belarusians are actually fighting,” he said, speaking on the condition that his last name be withheld for security reasons.

More than a year after Russia used the territory of its neighbor and ally to invade Ukraine, Belarus continues to host Russian troops, as well as warplanes, missiles and other weapons. The Belarusian opposition condemns the cooperation, and a guerrilla movement sprang up to disrupt the Kremlin’s operations, both on the ground and online. Meanwhile, Belarus’ authoritarian government is trying to crack down on saboteurs with threats of the death penalty and long prison terms.

Activists say the rail attacks have forced the Russian military to abandon the use of trains to send troops and materiel to Ukraine.

The retired serviceman is a member of the Association of Security Forces of Belarus, or BYPOL, a guerrilla group founded amid mass political protests in Belarus in 2020. Its core is composed of former military members.

During the first year of the war, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko realized that getting involved in the conflict “will cost him a lot and will ignite dangerous processes inside Belarus,” said Anton Matolka, coordinator of the Belarusian military monitoring group Belaruski Hajun.

Last month, BYPOL claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a Russian warplane stationed near the Belarusian capital. The group said it used two armed drones to damage the Beriev A-50 parked at the Machulishchy Air Base near Minsk. Belarusian authorities have said they requested the early warning aircraft to monitor their border.

Lukashenko acknowledged the attack a week later, saying that the damage to the plane was insignificant, but admitting it had to be sent to Russia for repairs.

The iron-fisted leader also said the perpetrator of the attack was arrested along with more than 20 accomplices and that he has ties to Ukrainian security services.

Both BYPOL and Ukrainian authorities rejected allegations that Kyiv was involved. BYPOL leader Aliaksandr Azarau said the people who carried out the assault were able to leave Belarus safely.

“We are not familiar with the person Lukashenko talked about,” he said.

The attack on the plane, which Azarau said was used to help Russia locate Ukrainian air defense systems, was “an attempt to blind Russian military aviation in Belarus.”

He said the group is preparing other operations to free Belarus “from the Russian occupation” and to free Belarus from Lukashenko’s regime.

“We have a two-headed enemy these days,” said Azarau, who remains outside Belarus.

Former military officers in the BYPOL group work closely with the team of Belarus’ exiled opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran against Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election that was widely seen as rigged.

The disputed vote results handed him his sixth term in office and triggered the largest protests in the country’s history. In response, Lukashenko unleashed a brutal crackdown on demonstrators, accusing the opposition of plotting to overthrow the government. Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania under pressure.

With the protests still simmering a year after the election, BYPOL created an underground network of anti-government activists dubbed Peramoha, or Victory. According to Azarau, the network has some 200,000 participants, two-thirds of them in Belarus.

“Lukashenko has something to be afraid of,” Azarau said.

Belarusian guerrillas say they have already carried out 17 major acts of sabotage on railways. The first took place just two days after Russian troops rolled into Ukraine.

A month later, then-Ukrainian railways head Oleksandr Kamyshin said there “was no longer any railway traffic between Ukraine and Belarus,” and thanked Belarusian guerrillas for it.

Another group of guerrillas operates in cyberspace. Their coordinator, Yuliana Shametavets, said some 70 Belarusian IT specialists are hacking into Russian government databases and attacking websites of Russian and Belarusian state institutions.

“The future of Belarus depends directly on the military success of Ukraine,” Shametavets said. “We’re trying to contribute to Ukraine’s victory as best we can.”

Last month, the cyberguerrillas reported hacking a subsidiary of Russia’s state media watchdog, Roskomnadzor. They said they were able to penetrate the subsidiary’s inner network, download more than two terabytes of documents and emails, and share data showing how Russian authorities censor information about the war in Ukraine.

They also hacked into Belarus’ state database containing information about border crossings and are now preparing a report on Ukrainian citizens who were recruited by Russia and went to meet with their handlers in Belarus.

In addition, the cyberguerrillas help vet Belarusians who volunteer to join the Kastus Kalinouski regiment that fights alongside Kyiv’s forces. Shametovets said they were able to identify four security operatives among the applicants.

Belarusian authorities have unleashed a crackdown on guerrillas.

Last May, Lukashenko signed off on introducing the death penalty for attempted terrorist acts. Last month, the Belarusian parliament also adopted the death penalty as punishment for high treason. Lukashenko signed the measure Thursday.

“Belarusian authorities are seriously scared by the scale of the guerrilla movement inside the country and don’t know what to do with it, so they chose harsh repressions, intimidation and fear as the main tool,” said Pavel Sapelka of the Viasna human rights group.

Dozens have been arrested, while many others have fled the country.

Siarhei Vaitsekhovich runs a Telegram blog where he regularly posts about Russian drills in Belarus and the deployment of Russian military equipment and troops to the country. He had to leave Belarus after authorities began investigating him on charges of treason and forming an extremist group.

Vaitsekhovich said his 15-year-old brother was recently detained in an effort to pressure him to take the blog down and cooperate with the security services.

The Russian Federal Security Service “is very unhappy with the fact that information about movements of Russian military equipment spills out into public domain,” Vaitsekhovich said.

According to Viasna, over the past 12 months at least 1,575 Belarusians have been detained for their anti-war stance, and 56 have been convicted on various charges and sentenced to prison terms ranging from a year to 23 years.

Anton says he understands the risks. On one of the railway attacks he worked with three associates who were each sentenced in November to more than 20 years in prison.

“It is hard to say who is in a more difficult position — a Ukrainian in a trench or a Belarusian on a stakeout,” he said.


  1. “The future of Belarus depends directly on the military success of Ukraine,” Shametavets said. “We’re trying to contribute to Ukraine’s victory as best we can.”

    Indeed, it is. And, as we see in Georgia and Moldova, there are other nations who are looking at Ukraine as the shining light of freedom, which could influence their own future, depending on if Ukraine wins or losses. All of these peoples – and more – should rise up and resist the forces of Putinist evil that has covered this part of the globe. The West should look at these regions with open eyes and do their share to help them in any which way it can. Now is the time to stomp on the cockroach queen and its evil empire.
    The free Belarusians and Ukraine are hopefully working close together in opposing mafia land within the country. I still think that it would be a wise move to invade Belarus. The gains could be well worth the effort.

    • Desirable yes, but probably impractical at the moment. They just don’t have the manpower or resources to mount such an operation whilst they are defending places such as Bakhmut and preparing for their spring counteroffensive.
      There is perhaps one feasible way that such an operation could be considered and that would be with the full cooperation of the Belarus army, the Belarus KGB and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
      Even that would require tremendous numbers of troops though. That is possibly why the idea hasn’t been considered seriously.

      • Instead of counter attacking somewhere along the current line of contact, the AFU could do this into Belarus. This move would surprise everyone.
        It would eject loony from power and, concurrently, the mafia army.
        Ukraine could take whatever military equipment and ammo that it can get a hold of and prevent mafia land from using Belarus as an airbase or as a threat for another land attack from there.
        Furthermore, it would defend a frontier to mafia land that is a lot further away from Ukraine without being any longer than now.
        Maybe the Belarusian army would join the fight, at least the biggest majority.
        In addition, Ukraine would have direct access to Lithuania and Latvia.
        Such a move could increase pressure on the evil runt in ways we don’t even know yet. Taking out Belarus would be a huge blow to him and his power base. Maybe it would even cause the fall of mafia land.
        The most important aspect is that this would be easier to do and cost a lot less Ukrainian lives than attacking along the heavily fortified Donbas/Luhansk/Zaporizhia/Kherson regions.

        • There are thought to be 360,000 orcs occupying Ukrainian land, possibly with even more to come. Taking out 1000/day appears not to phase the bastards; plenty more expendables in reserve.
          These orcs are simultaneously attacking and establishing defensive positions.
          For Ukraine to open up another front would be very high risk. How many divisions would it take? Where would such manpower even come from?
          Invading and holding a quite large country like Belarus is not feasible. There could well be a high level of hostility. Ukraine would lose many valuable troops and could well get bogged down.
          They don’t even want to take Transnistria, which would be a walk in the park compared to Belarus.
          They must wait for Tikhanouskaya to make an approach.
          To drive the putinazis out of Ukraine, the defenders must inflict unsustainable losses on the orcs. 3000/day would do the job. That needs to be the focus.

          • There are risks for a plan like this, yes, as any military operation has risks. That’s why you must weigh very carefully all aspects involved.
            Some points to ponder is, the AFU already has manpower and material on the border. For nothing. And, it must have a certain amount of troops and material ready for the coming offensive. So, what is the difference in which direction they go? Attacking Belarus is militarily easier than the highly fortified front lines in the south/southeast/east. While the AFU hold the lines along the regular front, they could sweep the cockroaches from Belarus. I think this is realistically achievable and with less blood. The net profit would be huge.
            The AFU would not require committing the entire attacking force to hold Belarus. Maybe a few forces, or maybe even none. With loony gone and a friendly government in place in Minsk, Ukraine would free up its entire army, including the ones now sitting along the Belarusian border for nothing, to attack the Donbas, including whatever weapons and ammo it captured.
            I would like to know where this high level of hostility should come from. The few thousand cockroaches there? The unwilling Belarusian army? The Belarusian people? All of this is highly unlikely. I know for a fact that the Belarusian opposition and partisans would love to see AFU boots on their territory. They are already wondering why Ukraine isn’t doing anything in this regard.

  2. Ukraine should stay away from Belarus and Transnistria. They are traps. Moscow already tried to talk Ukraine into something. Invading sovereign countries would void support for Ukraine within these countries and be the perfect excuse for RuSSia to justify their attack on Ukraine as pre-emptive military operation. Better get a license to produce agent orange (not Trump 🤣) and throw it at the invading orcs in Donbas. A few polonium rounds would also fit.

    • I read once from the Belarusian opposition that they would highly welcome Ukraine to strike in their territory, and are actually surprised that it hasn’t done so already. Moldova would never mind having Transnistria freed. And, I think that no one in their right mind would deny aid to Ukraine by such measures.
      What you’re suggesting is chemical warfare, and this would rather achieve that. Although, I would love to use everything possible to kill orcs en masse.😈

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