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Belarusian regiment fighting against Russia and exiled leader to cooperate actions

Tsikhanouskaya Kastus Kalinouski
The Kastus Kalinouski regiment during an online talk with Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya. Photo via Ukrainian MP Bohdan Yaremenko
Belarusian regiment fighting against Russia and exiled leader to cooperate actions

Ukrainian MPs from the “For a Democratic Belarus” group have held the first-ever meeting between exiled Belarusian leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment, where, reportedly, a decision was made for the two factions to coordinate efforts to liberate Belarus.

The meeting took place on 7 June, as reported by Bohdan Yaremenko, one of the MPs from the group.

Oleksiy Honcharenko, another MP who took part in the meeting, wrote that the meeting is “important” and “epochal,” as previously, the two Belarusian actors had not talked to each other, and because “everyone now realizes that [Ukraine] needs a free Belarus.”

According to Honcharenko, Tsikhanouskaya and the Kastuś Kalinoŭski agreed on the following:

  1. The Kastuś Kalinoŭski regiment and Tsikhanouskaya’s office will start cooperating and coordinating efforts to liberate Belarus.
  2. The Kremlin occupies the territory of Belarus. This is recognized by both Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya and the Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment.
  3. There are some agreements that cannot be discussed publicly, but this will be an important step toward the liberation of Belarus.

The regiment, in turn, briefly commented that they had conveyed their position to Tikhanovskaya: “Belarus can only be liberated by force!”

Tsikhanouskaya reported about the meeting thus:

“We can liberate Belarus only together. We need to speak up and unite. Everyone works in their own direction. The Kalinoŭski volunteers today fight not only for Ukraine but also for free Belarus. We support their work and all those who continue to fight. I thanked the volunteers for their heroism. We have a common goal – a free, independent, and democratic Belarus.”

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: exiled leader of free Belarus

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the exiled leader of Belarus’ pro-democracy movement. She challenged President Aliaksandr Lukashenka in the 2020 presidential election but fled to neighboring Lithuania after the official results showed Lukashenka winning by a landslide. Tsikhanouskaya and the opposition claimed that the results had been doctored to hand victory to Lukashenko instead of herself.

Representing Belarus’ pro-democracy movement from abroad, Tsikhanouskaya has been blamed in Ukraine for doing too little to stop Belarus’ participation in Russia’s February 2022 full-blown invasion of Ukraine. Since the invasion, Belarus has stopped short of participating directly in the war along Russia, but has provided its territory, airfields, and railroads, and gave further logistical and military support for Russia’s invasion.

Mass protests against Lukashenko erupted after the election, which his security forces suppressed by locking up his opponents or forcing them to flee. The authorities put Tsikhanouskaya on trial in absentia in January 2023, accusing her and other opposition figures of trying to seize power unconstitutionally.

On 6 March 2023, a court in Minsk sentenced Tsikhanouskaya to 15 years in a prison camp after finding her guilty of treason and conspiracy to seize power 1. Tsikhanouskaya called her conviction and sentence an act of vengeance by Belarusian authorities and vowed to continue to “fight for freedom.”

In addition to Tsikhanouskaya, other key politicians and activists were either arrested or pressured to leave the country. Pavel Latushka, a prominent member of the Belarusian opposition council, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Mariya Maroz, Volha Kavalkova, and Siarhei Dylevski were handed 12-year sentences. All of them left Belarus after the protests erupted in August 2020.

Tsikhanouskaya’s own husband, Siarhei, is serving an 18-year jail term after being found guilty in 2021 of organizing mass unrest. Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday by a court in Minsk in a trial condemned in the West as a “sham.”

Formation of Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment in Ukraine

The Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment, a Ukrainian military unit named after Kastus Kalinouski, a Belarusian national hero, was formed in March 2022 as a battalion to defend Ukraine, particularly the city of Kyiv, from the Russian invasion. It was composed of members from the “Belarus” tactical group, participants of the “White Legion” and “Young Front,” as well as other Belarusians not previously affiliated with these formations. The battalion later expanded into a regiment and included the “Litvin” and “Volat” battalions. The formation has been actively involved in battles to defend Kyiv, Irpin, Vorzel, and the liberation of Lukyanivka village in the Kyiv Oblast.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion initially comprised around 40 Belarusian volunteers, with the number later growing to approximately 200. By late March 2022, it had almost reached the size of an average Ukrainian Armed Forces battalion. The unit operates autonomously and is not part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

On 21 May 2022, the battalion commander, Denis “Kit” Prokhorov, announced the establishment of the Kastus Kalinouski Regiment within the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The regiment also included the “Litvin” and “Volat” battalions. Subsequently, a third battalion named “Terror” was formed within the regiment. The battalion “Terror” later separated from the regiment and joined another unit, retaining its name.

In December 2022, on Christmas Day, Belarusian volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine established the “Belarusian Volunteer Corps.”

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