Over the year, Kyiv has enhanced its defense along its northern border with Russia and Belarus. For his part, Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who’s been Russia’s reliable ally since 1994, has repeatedly claimed that he has no intention of getting involved in the invasion.[editorial]It is an important reminder that on the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 24 February, Russian troops entered Ukraine via multiple entry points, including those in the territory of Belarus. It is precisely Belarus where Russia conducted the military drills before the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.[/editorial]
Joint military drills and inspecting combat readiness
Concerns that Minsk may join the war have been stoked by a “Syabry’s” (Belarus.- friends) recent military buildup near Ukraine’s northern border. After last week’s Belarus and Russia joint military exercises, Belarus has appointed a new foreign minister and head of the air force. Russia has also redeployed MiG fighter jets from Ryazan to Belarus. Following Lukashenka’s order, the country’s defense ministry announced on 13 December a snap inspection of the Belarusian Armed Forces’ combat readiness.
- organize the defense and security
- construct bridges over Neman (along the Polish border) and Berezina (to the east of Minsk) rivers
- military and personnel relocations which signal temporary restrictions on the movement of citizens
According to the Ukrainian border service spokesman, Andriy Demchenko, Ukraine’s defense forces are conducting threat assessments and closely monitoring the situation. Such military combat readiness drills, rapid relocation, and deployment of troops to the border demonstrate Belarus’s eagerness and initiative in collaborating with Russia and their joint efforts.
The latest developments
According to the Belaruski Hajun Telegram channel, visible troop accumulation in the designated areas occurred overnight into 14 December and in the course of the day. A large train carrying this brigade’s equipment was en route to Brest Oblast, according to Belaruski Hayun.
The equipment movement overnight
- At least 10 APCs
- At least 3 ARV Cayman
- At least 25 MAZ, Ural trucks
- At least 2 military fuel trucks
Passenger and freight vehicles.
Belaruski Hajun notes that the ARV Cayman is a piece of equipment typical for the 103rd paratrooper brigade:
“Thus, there is reason to believe that the 103rd Vitebsk Airborn Brigade is also involved in the unannounced inspection of combat readiness, which the Defense Ministry announced on [Tuesday, 13 December 2022],” the report sais.
In addition, the redeployment may serve other purposes, such as the rotation of units stationed in the oblast’s areas bordering Ukraine or combat coordination with the Russian armed forces units spotted in Brest Oblast yesterday.
The developments on 14 December 2022
Today, a minimum of 20 tanks were moved to the training ground near Hrodna.
Additional Belarusian Armed Forces units and formations are engaged. Consequently, units of the immediate response forces from the 11th (Slonim) and 19th (Zaslonovo village, Leypyel district) guards mechanized brigades were tasked with marching to the Belarusian armed forces training grounds, including crossing water obstacles.
As for the 11th brigade, two tank companies from the 7th Independent Tank Battalion, or at least 20 T-72 tanks of the Belarusian Armed Forces, are participating in the inspection. The units must march from their permanent deployment location to the Gozhsky firing range in the Hrodna Oblast (by overcoming a water obstacle, most likely in the Lida district). It is known that the unit was placed on alert today at 3:00 pm (Minsk time).
In addition, there is information that the inspection will involve:
- The 40th separate mechanized battalion of the 11th brigade
- The 105th independent mechanized battalion, 11th brigade
- The 11th brigade engineering battalion
No information regarding the movement of the units mentioned above from their permanent deployment location has been reported yet.
Currently, there is also no information about the movements of the 19th brigade’s units. Nevertheless, one can anticipate those brigade units will cross the river Berezina at the crossing set up in the Borysaw district, Minsk Oblast.
At approximately 2:27 pm Kyiv time, the Russian Air Force IL-76 A-50U Sergey Atayants landed at the airfield in Machulishchy air base. It is a long-range radar detection and control aircraft with registration number RF-93966,
Note that the A-50U of the Russian Air Force, bearing registration number RF-93966, was already spotted in Belarus in February 2022.
Shortly after 3:00 pm Kyiv time, Belarus’s Ministry of Defense released footage of the movement of the 19th Mechanized Brigade.
It was reported in the morning that units of the 19th separate mechanized brigade participated in the surprise inspection of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus’ combat readiness (Zaslonovo village, Lepel district).
Photos and video released by the Defense Ministry indicate that at least one motorized rifle company equipped with BMP-2 armored vehicles from the 19th brigade participated in the inspection.
The 7th engineer regiment constructed a bridge over the Berezina River in the Barysau district yesterday, so the 19th brigade will use the constructed bridge to cross the Berezina River. The fact that the 7th engineer regiment and 19th brigade are part of the North-Western Operational Command of the Belarusian Armed Forces demonstrates this.
19th Brigade units could be transferred to the 227th Combined Arms Range “Borisovsky” (Borisovsky district) for training and combat missions after crossing the Berezina River, as the 227th Range is the closest to the crossing site.
- Belarus deploys armed forces closer to Ukrainian border
- Belarus to keep helping Russia but unlikely to send its troops to join Russia’s fighting in Ukraine – ISW
- Belarus moves military gear amid fears of new Russian attack on Ukraine – Reuters
- Belarus is indignant that Ukraine is strengthening its border
- Ukraine building wall on border with Belarus
- Belarus, Russia forms grouping of troops – Ukraine’s General Staff