Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, declared on September 21 a “partial” mobilization to reinforce his troops in Ukraine, who are presently coming under intense pressure from the counteroffensive that Ukraine is waging along the entire front lines. After Putin and Alexander Lukashenko’s meeting on September 26–27, rumors of an impending mobilization by Belarus that would thereafter take part in a fresh assault against Ukraine quickly spread.
Despite a noticeable rise in military activity in Belarus, no mobilization appears to have taken place.
Conscripts would only get draft notices for scheduled “military reserve training exercises,” undergo a medical check, or have their personal information updated at their local recruitment office, the Belarusian Defense Ministry declared on September 29. The current state security and military security system, according to the ministry, “neutralizes all the existing risks and problems.”
Although it doesn’t seem like Belarus is mobilizing, Lukashenko may very well need to help Putin open up the northern front of Ukraine in a similar way to how it was done during the early phases of the invasion.
A very large number of Russian SU-30SM aircraft unexpectedly touched down in Belarus on September 29, according to the independent Belarusian Hajun monitoring organization. Furthermore, the Luninets Air Force Base in Belarus’s barracks, dormitories, stores, and other facilities are being repaired, according to the deputy head of the main operational directorate of the Ukrainian general staff (just 50 km from its border with Ukraine). These repairs signify that the airfield is being prepared for long-term usage.
Similar preparations are also being made at the Zyabrauka airfield in Belarus, which is home to a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile division and multiple radar systems. It is located only 25 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. Components of an Iskander missile division were also discovered close to the Belarusian town of Osipovichi, which is 180 kilometers from the Belarusian border with Ukraine.
The Belarusian Hajun Project asserts that these preparations might portend an increase in Russian missile attacks on Ukraine in the future from Belarusian territory.
Furthermore, Belarus is currently preparing to house 20,000 recently mobilized Russian soldiers, according to a report from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence Intelligence. To resupply the Russian forces currently stationed in Belarus, these soldiers are planning to go to Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian intelligence, Belarus will use military finances, civilian properties, buildings, warehouses, hangars, and abandoned agricultural businesses to lodge these additional troops. To make up for the lack of transportation equipment, Belarusian railways are now being prepared to transport troops and military equipment, and mobilization of civilian vehicles and cars is also envisaged.
Oleg Zhdanov, a military analyst in Ukraine, claims that Putin has not altered his strategic objective of completely absorbing Ukraine. Zhdanov also claims that while Lukashenko may give Putin the infrastructure, ammunition, and military supplies he needs, he will try to prevent the deployment of his army.
This is because the Belarusian army would report to the Joint Staff of the Belarusian-Russian Union State if it were to participate in the conflict. The nation’s army is one of Lukashenko’s tools for retaining power, as other observers have also previously noted, thus he cannot afford to lose it.
The Belarusian Hajun Project further notes that Lukashenko is most likely terrified of the negative public reaction that sending Belarusian armed forces to invade would bring about.
Only 5% of Belarusians, according to a September independent survey, believe that the Belarusian army should take part in the war on either side. Only 3% of respondents agreed that Belarus’ military should back Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In contrast, 28% of respondents—4 percentage points more than in June—believe that Belarus should proclaim total neutrality and order the withdrawal of all foreign troops from its borders.
Therefore, it’s probable that Lukashenko is assisting Putin in reopening the northern front of Ukraine, although it’s likely that no Belarusian soldiers will be present. Even while nobody is certain of Putin’s exact timing for another attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainians are getting ready.
Ukraine is preparing
Oleksiy Arestovych, the presidential advisor for Ukraine, suggested that if the Russian military were to cross the border between Belarus and his country, Ukraine might launch an attack first. Additionally, he emphasized that “this time, we won’t be sentimental. I don’t mean when they cross the border, but rather before they do. Nobody will anticipate the next Bucha.
Together with the Ukrainian National Guard, the Ukrainian Armed Forces recently completed the drill “Northern Storm,” which was intended at ambushing and delaying enemy forces that might enter Ukrainian territory from Belarus.
Since the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region in the spring, Ukraine has strengthened its defenses along its border with Belarus by closing roads, deploying minefields, and honing defensive tactics.
The Belarusian Hajun Project and Oleg Zhdanov both think that Ukraine will be prepared to deal with a potential new Russian invasion from Belarus. The Russian forces in Belarus will probably need to be stationed along the border for at least a month before starting a new offensive. Furthermore, the invasion force should be greater than the initial one, which consisted of 15,000–30,000 infantry in September.
Such deployment patterns won’t go undetected, given Ukraine’s preparedness and its sophisticated intelligence gathering.