Ukrainian army builds new line of defense along country’s previously undefended northern border Belarus Among the signs of another attack.
Russian Army Invasion Ukraine In February, they crossed the Belarusian border when they tried to capture the capital, Kyiv.
On May 10, Belarus Army Commander-in-Chief Viktor Gurevich announced the deployment of Belarusian special forces and equipment in response to what he described as a “southern threat” from Ukraine and NATO. Belarus has been conducting military exercises on the border with Ukraine since early May.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is Russia’s closest ally in the Ukraine war. On Tuesday, Lukashenko urged the Russian-led military coalition, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, meeting in Moscow, to remain united over Ukraine, accusing the West of prolonging the conflict.
The Guardian was granted access to Ukrainian border positions on the condition that it did not reveal the exact location or surnames of serving Ukrainians.
In the forests along the Belarusian border, a Ukrainian territorial defense unit of fighters in their 19s and 60s is maintaining a network of trenches and positions built since the February invasion.
Before February, much of Ukraine’s border with Belarus had small kiosk checkpoints, which Russian tanks easily breached. Two days after the invasion, Ukraine closed all border crossings with Belarus and Russia.
The British Ministry of Defence said last week in an analysis of the threat from Belarus that the presence of Belarusian troops on the border could prevent Ukraine from deploying support operations on the Donbass front.
Equipped with AK47s and dozens of soldiers in each position, the fighters hope the Belarusian border will not be used again by invading forces.
“We’ll be in the frying pan,” joked Wova, who volunteered to fight in the Donbass in 2014 and served in the Soviet army. On the second day of the war, Vova signed up to fight alongside his brother Ihor and his brother’s son Maxim.
“They had the first 500 people in line that day, but we had more than 800,” said Ihor, who sat in a makeshift barracks near the border among his brother and son.
“I have high blood pressure, he has high blood pressure, and he is taking insulin,” Ihor said, pointing to the middle-aged and retiree in the room. “Then another part of the unit is young people like Maxim.”
On the morning of the invasion, Ihor and Maksym were working on a construction site in Kyiv. They rushed back to the Zhytomyr region where their family lived to sign up. Ukrainian territorial defense units consist of people who fight in the same area as the one they live in.
The men and women in the troops said some of them had known each other before the war. In almost all other cases, there is only a few degrees of separation.
“In some cases, it’s like, ‘Oh, your grandmother knew my grandfather, maybe we’re brothers,'” Ihol said, adding that the fighting between people in his area has given him great Great sense of responsibility and motivation. Sign up for the first edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday at 7am BST
The force said they were not supported by heavy artillery units, but they were lucky to have a local geographic advantage. Miles of narrow roads running down the border are surrounded by dense forests that cover deep swamps.
“For this reason, no one can control this territory,” said Ihor, the force’s military press secretary, of the fighting around the northern border during World War II.