Belarusian armed forces hit by defections and resignations ahead of country joining Russian invasion
Ever since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there were strong reports Belarusian forces would also join the war. However, it appears that those plans had to be repeatedly pushed back, as a red-faced Alexander Lukashenko was met with mass resignations and defections in response. Reports say the Belarusian dictator is having a harder time getting his military ready, which is a positive sign for Ukraine.
When Russia began its attack, it sent some forces to Kyiv from Belarusian territory. Days later, he then weighed in for the first time on the invasion, saying Ukraine "will become a meat grinder" if they continued to fight back. Then on March 2, he was photographed with an invasion map during a meeting with his generals, indicating battle plans were being drawn up.
However, nearly two weeks in, Belarusian forces are yet to deploy on the ground in Ukraine. While many hoped it was because sense had prevailed, it seems like another reason altogether - one outside of Lukashenko's control. The news is likely to infuriate the dictator, but provide immense relief to both Ukraine, and the rest of the world.
Belarus hit with defections, resignations
A report by Israel Hayom published on March 7, 2022, claims that "hundreds of young people of recruitment age have fled the country," citing opposition sources. The sources also claimed that several senior military leaders also resigned, hampering the Belarusian military's ability to participate in Vladimir Putin's invasion. "We know there is a high degree of demoralization among officers in the military," said Franak Viacorka, advisor to Belarus' exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
"In addition, there is a great deal of demoralization among conscripted soldiers, who are fleeing the country's borders en masse to any destination possible, including Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Baltic states," he added. Even amongst those that are left, there appears to be little appetite to enter the war. Viacorka said, "There are officers who took sick leave, others who have asked to end their contracts with the military, even at the price of reimbursing all the expenses from their military service."
However, if Ukrainians were hoping the officers would join their cause, it doesn't seem so. With Belarus now severely isolated by the rest of the world, there are few options for those who want to defect to do so safely. "The only way to defect is to cross the border with neighboring countries illegally. Many officers are still unwilling to risk this step," added Viacorka.
However, their mere refusal to fight appears to have had a massive impact on the war. Belarusian units, which were earlier moved right on to the border with Ukraine have now been called back to their bases. Unlike Putin, it appears Lukashenko is facing a tougher task to go to war, with opposition coming from all across the board. Israel Hayom also claims that some unites did defect to Ukraine, and have "deployed its people throughout the country to thwart the deployment of Russian military forces."
While there's little proof of that, there is some proof of Belarusian leaders quitting the armed forces. Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian Armed Forces Viktor Gulevich recently wrote a letter stating that the opposition to the war was the reason for his resignation. That letter, to Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin has since gone viral. While it may seem like a bad situation for Lukashenko, the dictator has clearly learned a few moves from Putin.
Reports now say men between 18 and 58 are being ordered to register with recruiting stations in person and leave behind their passports. Their families are also being threatened, but it appears that it isn't enough to get the army in a battle-ready state.