The Belarusian government is struggling to thwart an internal guerrilla group that opposes Minsk’s assistance to Russia and has engaged in a sabotage campaign since the war in Ukraine kicked off.
Earlier this week, opposition activists from the Association of Security Forces of Belarus (BYPOL), a group formed following the 2020 political turmoil in Belarus, attacked a Russian warplane outside the capital city using drones.
“Belarusians will not allow the Russians to freely use our territory for the war with Ukraine, and we want to force them to leave,” one retired Belarusian serviceman, who joined a group of saboteurs and goes by the name Anton, told The Associated Press in a report Friday.
“The Russians must understand on whose side the Belarusians are actually fighting,” he added.
Though Belarus has not become directly involved in Russia’s war effort, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been one of the few world leaders to vocally support Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation,” and he has permitted Russian troops to deploy into northern Ukraine from his borders.
Russia has also frequently relied on Belarusian airspace to launch missiles at Ukraine.
Lukashenko’s positive feelings toward Putin’s war effort are not necessarily widely shared.
The sabotage group has been sporadically attacking Belarusian train systems since the war began in an effort to block Russian supplies from reaching its troop on the southern border.
Lukashenko also claimed earlier this week to have found the culprits behind a drone strike that hit a Russian Beriev A-50, which apparently had to be returned to Russia for repairs.
The authoritarian president claimed that one Ukrainian saboteur and more than 20 accomplices were detained following the strike, though the Belarusian saboteurs on Friday said otherwise.
“We are not familiar with the person Lukashenko talked about,” BYPOL leader Aliaksandr Azarau said, adding that the people involved in the attack were able to successfully flee the country.
Ukraine has also denied having any involvement in sabotage attacks within Belarus.
“We have a two-headed enemy these days,” Azarau, who also remains outside Belarus, said. He added that the group aims to free Belarus “from the Russian occupation” and from the Lukashenko regime.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.