Belarus Security Update – 25 September – 1 October 2023 (Free access)
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Analysis of main political-military developments in Belarus
Last week, the Belarusian Armed Forces did not change their posture.
Last week brought some noteworthy developments regarding the situation in Belarus.
They pertained to changes in Belarusian legislation but also included a possible international incident.
The Belarusian military representatives presented rather limited activity.
They still participated in an international event representing Belarus as a Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS) member.
The Belarusian Armed Forces conducted a bilateral exercise involving forces of both operational commands, centrally subordinated formations and air assets of the Belarusian Air Force.
Aside from the abovementioned exercise, the general training tempo also reimagined heightened, which was especially visible among the Belarusian Special Operation Forces formations and engineering and air defence units.
Throughout the week, the Russian Armed Forces further decreased their already low activity in Belarus.
The number of Wagner PMC personnel stationed in Belarus also appears to have decreased.
25SEP2023 – Presidential Decree on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
On Monday (25SEP), Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a Decree No. 297,
“On State Registration and Operation of Civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”.
Officially, the new law was meant to ensure public safety by regulating the registration procedure for using UAVs. The new document significantly complicates the lawful possession of unmanned aerial vehicles by an “average” Belarusian citizen.
According to the text, legal entities and entrepreneurs owning UAVs must receive a permit from the Aviation Department of the Belarusian Transport Ministry. Moreover, they will be registered in a centralised information system gathering data about UAV owners.
Subsequently, individual citizens will be banned from importing, manufacturing, storing, selling, and even using unmanned aerial vehicles.
Decisions linked to storing and selling come into force six months after the law’s publication. The rest of the abovementioned measures (ban on importing, manufacturing and using UAVs) will be implemented immediately.
28SEP2023 – A possible violation of the Belarusian airspace
On Thursday (28SEP), the Belarusian Ministry of Defence informed about a double violation of the Belarusian airspace by Polish aircraft. According to the official statement, the first incident occurred on Thursday (28SEP) at 3:20 PM, when a Polish Mi-24 helicopter flew 500 meters into the Belarusian airspace. It returned to the Polish side and again crossed the Polish-Belarusian border (300 metres) at 4:22 PM.
The Belarusian Military-Political Review noted that the incident occurred near the Belarusian Lacka village.
Belarusians confirmed that the violation occurred near the village as per data obtained through “radiotechnical means of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence Forces.” As a result, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs started their joint actions to prepare “a corresponding note”.
According to the Spokesman of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence Forces Command,
Col. Sergey Kachur, the Polish side, confirmed planned helicopter flights in the border areas from 3:02 PM. Belarusian radars observed the aircraft and confirmed its closing to the Belarusian border. Belarusian Air Force also scrambled its fighters remaining on combat duty.
The Operational Command of the Polish Armed Forces (DORSZ) claimed that Belarusian accusations were false. According to DORSZ, flight control and radar station records confirm no border violations occurred.
In the official statement, the Polish Operational Command noted that data provided by the Belarusian regime must always be approached with great caution and prudence and also pointed out that Poland (“contrary to Belarus”) respects regulations on the inviolability of state borders.
28SEP2023 – Restoration of the 50th Mixed Aviation Base runway
On Thursday (28SEP), the Belarusian Hajun military monitoring team informed about an ongoing runway restoration in the 50th Mixed Aviation Base (Machulischy). They claimed that only a part of the runway would be reconstructed. The works may have started around the “Combat Brotherhood-2023” exercise (1SEP-6SEP).
On 1SEP, transport aircraft stationed at the base (Il-76, An-26, Tu-134) were redeployed to Baranovichi Air Base and have not returned yet. Official procurement data about the annual order of more than 500 (584) PAG-18 airfield plates (allowing the replacement of about 110 metres of runway) appear to support this thesis.
29SEP2023 – Possible arrival of other Mi-35M helicopters
On Friday (29SEP), the abovementioned Belarusian Hajun team also informed about the possibility of the arrival of a new batch of Mi-35M helicopters ordered in Russia.
This statement was based on the flights of Belarusian air assets reported on Thursday (28SEP) and Friday (29SEP). Belarusian Il-76 cargo aircraft flew to Kubinka and Rostov (Rostov-on-Don), which means they covered the same routes as before 17AUG2023 when the initial batch of four Mi-35s was delivered.
It remains to be seen whether another aircraft will be delivered soon. Still, it is important to note that Belarusian officials repeatedly stressed that at least four more helicopters would arrive in Belarus by the end of 2023.
29SEP2023 – The meeting of CIS Ministers of Defence Council
On Friday (29SEP), the Belarusian delegation departed to Russia to participate in the Ministers of Defence Council of the Commonwealth of the Independent States meeting.
Aside from the Head of the Belarusian MoD, Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin, the delegation included the Head of the International Military Cooperation Department, Col. Valery Revenko, the Deputy Chief of General Staff for Scientific Work, Col. Viktor Tumar and at least two more senior officers.
During the meeting, Khrenin spoke about the role of the CIS. According to him, most states cannot provide comprehensive protection of their independence and territorial integrity, so they become members of various unions and alliances.
The Head of the Belarusian MoD noted that due to the “growing confrontation of global players”,
CIS members should deepen their cooperation and intensify their joint efforts. According to him, only the demonstration of the organisation’s unity in the military-political sphere would ensure global security within the commonwealth and on its borders. Besides, Khrenin also informed that the next meeting of the CIS Council of Defence Ministers would occur in Belarus in 2024.
As a part of the ongoing gathering, member states approved the Work Plan of CIS Defence Ministers for 2024. Subsequently, representatives of the Belarusian Armed Forces also participated in several other discussions. They referred to military-technical cooperation regarding the Joint CIS Air Defence System and the creation of the joint engineering (humanitarian demining) subunit of the Commonwealth of the Independent States.
Notably, the Scientific Research Institute of the Belarusian Armed Forces officially became accredited by the CIS members as a research organisation in the field of military security problems.
26SEP2023 – Belarusian Army built another bridge
On Saturday (26SEP), the Belarusian MoD confirmed that Belarusian engineers prepared another bridge for civilian needs. The object appeared in Oshmyany and across the local Oshmyanka River.
Considering the recent movements of Belarusian engineering formations and units, it seems highly likely that soldiers of the 557th Engineering Brigade and Engineering-Sapper Battalion of the 6th Mechanised Brigade were involved in these works.
The bridge is 40 metres long and allows for the movement of vehicles up to 60 tons in weight.
Prior to that, on 22SEP, the Head of the Belarusian Transport Troops, Maj. Gen. Yuri Shaplavsky opened a 30-metre-long wooden bridge created by the Belarusian service members in Mochul.
The Bridge was set up to allow local residents to shorten their path to nearby cultivated areas. Elements of the bridge battalion of the 36th Road and Bridge Brigade were responsible for its construction between 12SEP and 21SEP.
25SEP-26SEP2023 – The bilateral exercise of the Belarusian Armed Forces
On Monday (25SEP) and Tuesday (26SEP), elements of the Belarusian Armed Forces continued their bilateral exercise.
On the first day (25SEP), the Belarusian Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin, visited the 210th Aviation Training Ground, where he observed the course of the drills.
This involved Yak-130 aircraft and Mi-24 helicopter strikes against ground targets of a mock enemy. Representatives of the Belarusian MoD (Maj. Gen. Andrey Burdyko – Chief of Logistics, and Maj. Gen. Alexander Fedin – Chief of Armaments) and the Commander of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence Forces, Maj. Gen. Andrey Lukyanovich and Chief of Aviation,
Col. Leonid Davidovich accompanied Khrenin during his visit.
After the event, Khrenin spoke to Belarusian journalists. He claimed the exercise was not conducted against other states and highlighted its planned character. According to him, Belarusian military leadership decided to conduct a bilateral comprehensive exercise because it was one of the most advanced types of training – both for leadership and soldiers.
Speaking about the details, the Head of the Belarusian MoD noted that practical actions were held outside of Belarusian training grounds, including tests on using subordinated forces. Those tests are based on the experiences of modern military conflict, including the Russo-Ukrainian war, Khrenin stressed. According to him, the exercise also had a verification character to check if the mentioned innovations would be acceptable to troops. Khrenin pointed to the reduction of necessary time between identifying and destroying the target of the mock enemy as an example and pointed out the positive effect of the drills – invaluable experience for Belarusian soldiers.
During his visit, the Belarusian Minister of Defence also briefly referred to the current military-political situation around Belarus. He stressed that despite its difficulty, Belarus was ready to cooperate with Poland to ensure military security in the region. However, Khrenin also pointed out that Belarusian neighbours used every occasion to build up forces near Belarusian borders and increase training activity, which might suggest that they were actively preparing for a future armed conflict. That said, the Head of the Belarusian MoD once more highlighted Belarusian initiatives – the invitation of the Polish observers to the “Combat Brotherhood-2023” exercise and a current statement about possible military cooperation between Belarus and Poland.
At the same time (25SEP), elements of the 74th Communications Regiment changed their deployment area. It can’t be ruled out that such a measure was combined with relocating the Western Operational Command (OC) command post deployed for the drills.
Also, the 110th Logistics Regiment (North-Western OC) soldiers started special-tactical exercises to provide material means to the subordinated forces. Nevertheless, the correlation of the drills with the bilateral exercise still needs to be clarified.
A day later (26SEP), the Chief of Belarusian General Staff, Maj. Gen. Viktor Gulevich visited the command post of the North-Western Operational Command, taking part in the bilateral exercise of the Belarusian Armed Forces. His visit was correlated to the final episode of the drills.
During its course, Gulevich noted that Belarusian soldiers could gain a lot of practical experiences and had an opportunity to test theoretical measures developed in the past.
According to the Chief of Belarusian General Staff, the active phase of the drills had a complex character – it included issues related to the use of reconnaissance and fire (artillery) (sub)units, but also constant redeployment of the command posts. As noted, the exercise would be followed by a comprehensive analysis, which would result in implementing those measures that turned out to be successful.
Since Wednesday (27SEP), Belarusian military formations and units involved in the bilateral exercise of the Belarusian Armed Forces began to return to their home garrisons.
On this day (27SEP), some arrived in Grodno, where their “ceremonial meeting” was held.
Considering the presence of Lt. Col. Sergey Shilin, it is very likely that elements of the 11th Mechanised Brigade arrived in the city. It is also known that subunits of the 74th Communications Regiment and 250th Security and Maintenance Battalion participated in the event.
The Belarusian Hajun team provided quite detailed data linked to the movements of military equipment of the formations (units) involved in the drills On Wednesday (27SEP):
- Forces of the 11th Mechanised Brigade were moving near Slonim (at least ten vehicles);
- Forces of the 51st Artillery Brigade were moving between Volkovyvsk and Zelva (about ten vehicles, presumably including two 2A65 howitzers);
- Forces of the 336th Reactive Artillery Brigade were moving near Slonim (at least two BM-30 launchers);
- Forces of the 74th Communications Regiment and 250th Security and Maintenance Battalion were moving in Grodno (at least 15 vehicles);
- Forces of the 19th Mechanised Brigade were moving near Zaslonovo (at least 15 vehicles);
- Forces of the 191st Artillery Group were moving near Borovka (at least ten vehicles);
A day later (28SEP), available data confirmed that elements of the 310th Artillery Group (120th Mechanised Brigade), 19th Mechanised Brigade and presumably 74th Communications Regiment had already arrived at their permanent deployment areas.
Also, on Friday (29SEP), a military echelon with equipment of the 231st Artillery Brigade arrived in Zaslonovo, which might also suggest that the formation participated in the bilateral exercise of the Belarusian Armed Forces.
25SEP–26SEP2023 The end of the command-staff exercise of the Territorial Defence Forces
On Monday (25SEP), the executive committees and Territorial Defence Forces (TDF) reservists of the Mogilev, Osipovichi and Chausy regions finished their command-staff exercise meant to summarise the TDF inspection held in the whole Mogilev Oblast.
The inspection began on 5SEP, while the exercise started precisely on 22SEP.
On Monday (25SEP), the Osipovichi region hosted a meeting of military commissars and chairmans of regional executive committees of the Mogilev Oblast. The gathering sought to improve the knowledge level of local civilian authorities regarding the organisation of TDF activities in the region.
Participants of the gathering had an opportunity to watch the actions of the People’s Militia detachment formed in Osipovichi. This refers to about 20 servicemen led by a retired
sergeant, Vasily Petrovsky. They also observed the actions of TDF reservists, who, jointly with the local Police, stood up a road checkpoint at the city entrance, as well as the activity of the fire support company, which performed firing classes with the use of SPG-9 grenade launcher and ZPU-4 machine guns at the Osipovichi Training Ground.
According to the Head of the Territorial Defence Directorate, Col. Dmitry Streshinsky (and subsequently head of the inspection), the command-staff exercise proved that the Territorial Defence Forces training system was good enough to provide protection of the important objects and maintain the martial law regime. It was possible due to the cooperation of the TDF reservists, detachments of the People’s Militia and other law enforcement agencies.
Besides, the Chairman of the Mogilev Oblast Executive Committee, Anatoly Isachenko, claimed that all reserve servicemen responded to their call-ups and arrived at assembly points before the start of the exercise. As Isachenko noted, local authorities also have done a lot of work by working out issues of organising conscription, housing and comprehensive provision of the called-up reservists.
Interestingly, on Tuesday (26SEP), the Belarusian Hajun noticed that Belarusian Territorial Defence Forces used the KRAZ Kuguar vehicle, which the Belarusian Armed Forces do not use. Hajun said the vehicle could have been captured in Ukraine and used by Wagner there.
25SEP-27SEP2023 – Training activity of engineering formations
Aside from the involvement of Belarusian engineers in the preparation of bridges for the Belarusian residents, it is important to note their quite visible training activities.
On Monday (25SEP), the Belarusian MoD informed about the field exit of the 7th Engineering Regiment. During its course, soldiers of the unit were meant to participate in classes related to camouflage and engineering preparation of the battlefield. Officially, their practical actions were based on the experiences of modern military conflicts.
Subsequently (25SEP), soldiers of the Engineering-Technical Battalion of the 557th Engineering Brigade prepared the terrain for building an “engineering town” at the Gozhsky Training Ground.
Two days later (27SEP), the Pontoon-Bridge Battalion of the same formation finished a special-tactical exercise. Its starting date currently remains unclear. However, it is known that practical actions occurred near the Berezhany village. They related to the preparation of a pontoon bridge over the Neman River. Such exercises were usually held twice a year. The current event involved mostly conscripted soldiers who already served six to eight months in the formation.
25SEP2023 – Training activity of the artillery formations
Last week, the general training activity of the artillery formations was minimal. Excluding their involvement in the Belarusian Armed Forces bilateral exercise, only one training event of artillery formations was reported.
It occurred on Monday (25SEP) when at least a single 2S1 battery of the 310th Artillery Group (120th Mechanised Brigade) conducted independent firing classes at the 227th Combined Arms Training Ground near Barysaw.
26SEP – 29SEP2023 – Training activity of reserve servicemen
Last week, the training activity of the Belarusian reserve servicemen was noticeable.
On Tuesday (26SEP), at least 16 reserve servicemen departed for the planned reserve training camps. Five had a “sapper” speciality and likely arrived at the 7th Engineering Regiment.
Three days later (29SEP), the 120th Mechanised Brigade officially farewelled at least eight reservists (likely officers) who had recently participated in the planned reserve training camps held in the formation.
At the same time (29SEP), the Belarusian Hajun team informed that the 1371st Engineering Base hosted reserve camps between 5SEP and 29SEP, which involved at least 25 reserve servicemen.
27SEP – 30SEP2023 – Training activity of Belarusian Special Operation Forces
Over the past seven days, the Belarusian Special Operation Forces undoubtedly presented the highest training tempo among all Belarusian military formations. Practical actions often included parachute jumps from various air assets.
On Wednesday (27SEP), such jumps occurred over the Brestsky Training Ground and engaged more than 120 servicemen of the 38th Air Assault Brigade, who jumped out from an IL-76 transport aircraft.
A day later (28SEP), the 383rd Air Assault Battalion of the abovementioned formation conducted a notable control-tactical exercise. It took place in Gomel, but episodes were also held on the territory of the 1868th Artillery Munitions Base (AMB) and Zyabrovka Airfield (Prybytki).
Practical actions involved presumably at least one air assault company and two Mi-8MTV5 helicopters (TN:94,?) that conducted air assault(s) to repel an enemy attack on the 1868th AMB and strengthen defences of the Zyabrovka Airfield.
Considering the location of the drills, one can conclude that the 38th Air Assault Brigade replaced the 103rd Airborne Brigade in protecting the Zyabrovka Airfield, where the 103rd Brigade was recently deployed.
Also, on Thursday (28SEP), the Peacekeeping Company of the 103rd Airborne Brigade started a company-level tactical exercise at the Losvido Training Ground. Officially, the drills were meant to summarise preparations of the subunit before it participated in the “Unbreakable Brotherhood-2023” CSTO exercise of the peacekeeping forces in Kyrgyzstan. During practical actions, soldiers of the company set up checkpoints, mobile patrols and observation points and worked out the issue of repelling enemy attacks on protected objects and convoys.
Notably, the same training ground also hosted a gathering of 103rd Airborne Brigade divers, who practised engineering and special diving works.
On Friday (29SEP), more than 150 soldiers of the 38th Air Assault Brigade again jumped over the Brestsky Training Ground as a part of the planned combat training classes.
A day later (30SEP), communications subunits of the 103rd Airborne Brigade started their field exit. During its course, signalmen of the formation were responsible for the deployment of radio stations and the establishment of communications at the Losvido Training Ground.
28SEP – 29SEP2023 – Training activity of the mechanised formations
Due to the rather visible involvement in the bilateral exercise of the Belarusian Armed Forces, the number of independent training actions of mechanised formations was rather limited.
Nonetheless, elements of the 339th Mechanised Battalion of the 120th Mechanised Brigade Brigade conducted a complex-tactical exercise on Thursday (28SEP). Officially, it focused on covering the movement through rough terrain, conducting ambushes, and using and countering UAVs. The drill occurred at the 227th Combined Arms Training Ground (Barysawsky).
At the same time (28SEP), the Gozhsky Training Ground hosted BRM-1K firing classes of the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 6th Mechanised Brigade.
A day later (29SEP), soldiers of the 202nd Mechanised Battalion (also the 6th Mechanised Brigade) underwent control classes. They likely took place at the Gozhsky Training Ground and included RPG and AGS-17 grenade launcher firing (also using indirect fire).
28SEP – 29SEP2023 – Training activity of the air defence formations
In the latter part of the week, training actions were especially visible among the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence Forces air defence formations.
On Thursday (28SEP), presumably, the 1st Air Defence Battalion of the 115th Air Defence Regiment started a tactical exercise at the Brestsky Training Ground. Soldiers of the subunit presumably left their home garrison before 21SEP (when they underwent their first tactical and engineering classes at an unspecified location). During the actual exercise, they trained to redeploy air defence assets, organise their security and counter UAV operations, and sabotage and reconnaissance groups of the mock enemy.
Subsequently (28SEP), the unspecified S-300-equipped 15th Air Defence Brigade battalion started its tactical exercise to “improve the already acquired skills” and work out new methods of destroying enemy UAVs and reconnaissance elements.
On Friday (29SEP), the Belarusian MoD officially announced the change of the duty forces responsible for (air defence) protection of the Belarusian airspace. Such changes occurred in the 56th Air Defence Regiment (S-300) (Zyabrovka Airfield (Prybytki)) and 15th Air Defence Brigades, whose subunits started combat duty.
25SEP – 29SEP2023 – Noteworthy movements of Belarusian military equipment
- Six Ural trucks were moving in Minsk.
- Three various trucks headed to Barysaw from Zhodino;
- Two Ural-4320 trucks with a single GAZ-66 were moving in the area of Volozhin;
- Up to ten various vehicles were moving from Baranovichi, presumably towards Nesvizh;
- Three MAZ trucks were heading from Minsk towards Rakau;
- More than ten vehicles of the 310th Artillery Group were moving through Barysaw towards Minsk;
- Two MAZ trucks with a single Tigr vehicle were moving in Pinsk;
- Seven BTR-80 APCs, with two technical support vehicles and three ZIL-131 trucks, were moving towards Zhodino from Barysaw;
- Engineering equipment of the 557th Engineering Brigade and Engineering-Sapper Battalion of the 6th Mechanised Brigade was moving through Oshmyany;
Russian military activity in Belarus
Last week, the general activity of the Russian Armed Forces reported in Belarus was minimal.
On Monday (25SEP), three Russian soldiers appeared in Baranovichi, while two days later (27SEP), a single PAZ bus was moving through Gomel.
Notably, on Friday (29SEP), Russian IL-76 and An-26 cargo aircraft arrived at Baranovichi Air Base.
Wagner PMC activity in Belarus
On the contrary, additional data linked to the Wagner PMC presence in Belarus appeared.
On Monday (25SEP), the Belarusian Military-Political Review informed that an unspecified SOF subunit of the Belarusian Internal Troops finished a 30-day-long training course with the Wagner PMC personnel.
Interestingly, a day later (26SEP), several Belarusian sources informed about a Belarusian citizen detained for insulting a Wagner mercenary.
On Wednesday (27SEP), Ukrainian officials provided more data linked to the current number of the Wagner PMC mercenaries.
The Belarusian Hajun informed that about 65% of tents in the Wagner PMC camp in Tsel village have already been dismantled. On 25SEP, only 103 tents from 292 were left.
On Friday (29SEP), certain Belarusian sources noted that photographs of Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin appeared on the memorial of Soviet soldiers in Gomel.