Hundreds of Belarusian citizens who fled the country after the 2020 mass protests are undergoing combat training in Poland to overthrow Aleksandr Lukashenko, The Times reports.
Training is carried out by former officers of the Belarusian security forces BYPOL, who were also forced to leave their country. According to the leader of the organization, Aleksandr Azarov, some groups of Belarusians have been training for months.
“I call it a militant diaspora. Our strength is growing every day”, said one of the instructors, a former serviceman with the call sign Skvoretz.
Previously, BYPOL-affiliated guerrillas had already conducted several successful operations in Belarus. In particular, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, they staged sabotage operations on railroads used by Russian troops.
In February this year, the organization claimed responsibility for blowing up a Russian A-50 reconnaissance aircraft at an airport near Minsk using two drones. BYPOL was declared an “extremist organization” in Belarus.
“We tried to go the peaceful way. [But] the state has never won its freedom without blood”, explained his decision to join the BYPOL training camp by a 60-year-old electrician, who received the call sign “Died”.
“My daughter doesn’t know I’m here. I told her I was going to play paintball. [But actually] I came here <…> to get ready to fight for Belarus”, said the 42-year-old volunteer, call sign “Predator.”
The training participants are preparing for the day they call among themselves “Time X” – when they will return to Belarus to fight the regime. That moment may come “when the Russian Federation leaves [Belarus],” noted another Belarusian.
Mass protests in Belarus began on August 9, 2020. They were caused by falsification of the results of the presidential election, in which Lukashenko, the incumbent president, officially won more than 80% of the votes, while his main rival Svetlana Tikhanovska won about 10%. Tikhanovska’s headquarters did not recognize the election results and demanded that Lukashenko peacefully hand over power.
Hundreds of people were detained during the protests, many of whom were accused of organizing mass disturbances, inciting social hatred, obstructing the work of the CEC, and organizing actions that violate public order.
Tikhanovska and thousands of Belarusians had to flee their country under threat of reprisals. Lukashenko accused the West of instigating the protests. The EU and the U.S. did not recognize the election results.
In early June, Lukashenko said that Western countries were training “members of illegal armed groups” in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine in order to overthrow him. He also noted that there were attempts to create “dormant extremist cells” in Belarus itself.