Russian occupation administrations in Donbas recruit militants for action at Belarusian-Russian border – NGO

Militants in Donbas are recruiting mercenaries for participating in actions outside the territory of Ukraine. Photo: screengrab from RFE/RL report. 

Hybrid War

The Russian occupation administrations in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region are recruiting militants for participating in “actions” outside Ukraine, in all likelihood – in Belarus, the ZMINA human rights center reported, citing Vera Yasterbova, director at the East Human Rights Group NGO which monitors human rights violations in eastern Ukraine.

Yasterbova writes that, according to the sources of her NGO, the recruitment has been going on for two weeks. Presumably, the destination will be somewhere close to the border of Russia and Belarus; the recruitment is being conducted by the Prizrak Brigade, an infantry unit of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic,” as well as local military commissariats. The recruits are being offered 30,000 rubles ($409) plus daily and travel allowances, with demands being put forward that candidates urgently receive passports of the unrecognized “republics” in Donbas. Traveling to the destination is possible because Russia and Belarus share one economic space – as well as a joint travel blacklist.

Ms. Yasterbova provided photos of recruitment announcements, the applicants of which were offered to join this mission for activities on the border with Belarus.

One week earlier, on 29 July, the Belarusian security service detained 33 fighters of the Wagner private military company infamous for their participation in armed conflicts around the world. 14 of them had reportedly fought on the territory of Ukraine against the Ukrainian military. Minsk believes that the goal of the mercenaries was to “destabilize the situation during the election campaign of the president of Belarus”; the Ukrainian MFA believes that they could have indeed done that. The detained mercenaries are being now suspected of planning a terrorist act. Meanwhile, Russian ambassador to Belarus Kirill Pletnyov has stated that the mercenaries told they were on their way to Venezuela and deny any connection to the Belarusian elections; this information was corroborated by sources of the Ukrainian online media Ukrayinska Pravda.

Presidential elections are to take place in Belarus on 9 August. Incumbent “last dictator in Europe” President Lukashenka is facing difficulties like never before – while three main opposition candidates were either jailed or barred from taking part in elections, the remaining opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is gathering massive rallies. It is almost beyond doubt that the elections will be rigged so that Lukashenka wins; in that case, massive rallies are sure to take place, and a window of opportunity opens for a Russian power scenario. In it, the Kremlin’s objective would be to seize power in Belarus or create a negative image of Lukashenka so that he becomes isolated by the international community and easier for Moscow to manage.

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