Saboteur groups may be sent to Belarus seeking to topple the government, according to a senior Russian diplomat FILE PHOTO: Belarusian fighters in Poland before going to fight for Ukraine. © Raul Moreno / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
Belarusian “nationalist units” fighting for Ukraine could be sent back to their own country to conduct acts of sabotage, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin has warned. The official, however, expressed confidence that Minsk will be able to thwart such attempts, adding that Moscow will assist in doing so if necessary.
The diplomat noted that the rhetoric coming from members of “Belarusian nationalist formations… who are actively supported by the Kiev authorities and their Western backers, has become significantly tougher” lately.
“The leaders and commanders of those cut-throat mercenaries openly say that they plan, in the future, to apply their combat experience to topple the current Belarusian leadership,” Galuzin said in an interview with the Russian news network RTVI on Wednesday.
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He cited several incidents, in which the Ukrainian conflict spilled over into Belarus in recent months, including the February drone attack allegedly targeting a Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft stationed at an airfield near Minsk. Bypol, a Belarusian anti-government group, claimed responsibility for the incident.
Earlier this month, Minsk reported arresting the ringleader of the team behind the attack, which it said caused only minor damage to the Russian spy plane. President Alexander Lukashenko accused Ukraine’s security service SBU of masterminding the operation, and branded his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, “scum” over the incident.
In his interview with RTVI, Galuzin suggested that such cases could be attempts to “feel out” the defense capability of a joint Russian-Belarusian task force deployed in the country, and “a preparation for military aggression”.
The task force was formed last year, after Minsk complained of an increased threat posed by NATO troops stationed in Eastern Europe. Galuzin said the presence of Russian soldiers in Belarus also “serves as a deterrence factor” in the Ukraine conflict, as it forces Kiev “to keep significant reserves” in the north, instead of sending them to the frontline.