Meet the Phoenician Battalion formed by the Belarusian opposition

(CNN) – A wooded area on the Polish side The border between Poland and UkraineTurnstiles are offered to men dressed in crisp, clean camouflage. They kneel in the muddy ground and begin to learn basic survival training.

They call themselves the Phoenician Battalion, with less than 30 Belarusian exiles living mostly in Poland and other European countries, hoping to join their hundreds of comrades who have already participated. The war for Ukraine.

Enthusiastic volunteers say that in order to free their country from the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin, they must first defeat him in Ukraine.

At an unknown location in Poland, the Bohonia battalion is training with the Kalashnikovs (AK-47s).

The group of 19 to 60-year-olds carried Kalashnikov weapons. Almost no one has experience of war.
One of them is a professional poker player, one is a rock musician and one is an electrician.

They are led by disgruntled businessman Vadim Prokofiev. “We see an opportunity,” Prokopiev told CNN on Monday.

“I invited the Belarusians to join the war in Ukraine because this is the second and first step in the war for Belarus.”

Putin’s Kremlin-backed ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, has been forced to flee most of his country, including Prokofiev, by 2020, when he defeated a mass opposition movement following his victory in a widely contested election. Fraud.

“If Ukraine loses this war, the chances of Belarus being liberated will be zero,” Prokofiev said. “If Ukraine wins this war, it means Putin’s hands are too full, too weak, and he will not support Lukashenko with evidence.”

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Bohonia wants to join Ukrainian International Security ForceMilitary unit created by foreign volunteers, but as of this writing they are not allowed.

Hundreds more Belarusian volunteers are already fighting with Ukrainian troops. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Dikanovskaya said four of them had been killed since the war began.

“The people of Belarus understand that the fate of Belarus depends on the fate of Ukraine. Now it is very important to liberate Ukraine, so it will be easier to remove the Lukashenko regime on our soil,” Dikanovskaya told CNN on Wednesday.

Belarus protesters

A group of Belarusian protesters on the Polish-Ukrainian border receives basic survival training. Interested volunteer fighters want to join the struggle for Ukraine.

Moscow is using Minsk as a satellite base for its unprovoked war against Ukraine. At the beginning of the conflict, Putin ordered troops to enter Ukraine through the Russian and Belarusian borders.

According to information gathered by NATO surveillance aircraft, Belarus has been used as a swing board for several Russian air operations in Ukraine.

It also claims that the Ukrainian military has shot down several missiles from Belarus.

After Russia failed to gain the desired position around Kiev, the forces returned to Belarus to reorganize and re-establish themselves.

NATO fears that the Kremlin may ask Lukashenko to deploy his army to strengthen Moscow’s forces on the battlefield. This is a perspective on the Belarusian exiles and the Minsk army on the opposite side of the front line.

The Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Minsk, targeting Belarusian security agencies and the country’s defense minister, and has suspended regular trade relations with the country.

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But Lukashenko showed no remorse for his contribution. “We have not started this war. We have a clear conscience. I am glad it started,” he told reporters in March.

Earlier this week, Putin thanked Lukashenko for his unwavering support: “If anyone gives us a shoulder, we have no doubt that it is Belarus.”

Pohonia Belarus

When Lukashenko brutally suppressed a large opposition movement in the country, most members of the Bohonia battalion fled Belarus in 2020.

Belarusian opposition, broken and brittle after the 2020 repression, was said by volunteer militants to be part of a broader effort to destabilize the Lukashenko regime.

“All those Belarusian fighters are real heroes,” Dikanovskaya said of the volunteers. “Now they are defending Ukraine, maybe one day they will be able to defend Belarus as well,” he said, looking at the will of the opposition. The rule of Lukashenko.

In Belarus, a railway line used by Russian forces to transport goods to Ukraine was partially cut off by activists in April, and Belarusian police opened fire, arresting three people, Belarusian state news agency Belda reported.

Internet activists have recently hacked Belarusian government agencies involved in the war against Ukraine and continue to fight against Russian misinformation on the Internet, Dikanovskaya said.

But these small measures have not yet posed a real threat to the 28-year rule of Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator.

“A long journey begins somewhere, so we build a small force to build a large force,” Prokofiev said.

The deportees now believe that Lukashenko’s reliance on Moscow will link his future with that of Putin, and so far, is the result of a faltering military invasion of Ukraine.

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