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Belarus Instability - August 2020

Retired AF Guy

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Interesting report from the Institute for the Study of War about Russian military deployments into Belarus. Looks like Putin is taking no chances.

BELARUS WARNING UPDATE: RUSSIA DEPLOYS A THIRD BATTALION TACTICAL GROUP TO BELARUS

September 22, 2020, 5:00 pm EDT

By George Barros

Russia deployed a battalion tactical group (BTG) from the 217th Airborne Regiment of the Ivanovo-based 98th Guards Airborne Division to Belarus likely on September 21.[1] It is unclear where the elements of the 98th are operating as of this writing.

Moscow has now deployed a total of three battalion tactical groups from three different Russian airborne divisions to Belarus as part of the Slavic Brotherhood exercises as of September 22. An element of Russia’s 234th Airborne Regiment of the 76th Guards Air Assault Division arrived in Brest on September 15.[2] Elements of the 137th Airborne Regiment of the Tula-based 106th Guards Airborne Division arrived in Grodno on September 21.[3] All three of these regiments have combat experience in Ukraine.[4]

Russia’s force presence in Belarus expanded to Grodno, near the Lithuanian border, Baranovichi, closer to central Belarus, and possibly elsewhere on September 22. Russian forces in the Slavic Brotherhood exercise were confined to training grounds in Brest, near the Polish border, during its first phase on September 14-21. The BTG from the 76th conducted a ground movement from Brest to the Baranovichi airbase (about 200 kilometers) and then airdropped into an unspecified landing site likely in Brest on September 22.[5] The Kremlin will likely continue to frame Slavic Brotherhood exercises as “preplanned” despite evident changes in their timing and scale.[6]

Russian and Belarusian forces conducted another water obstacle exercise in Brest on September 22. Russian and Belarusian airborne forces airdropped near and then crossed the Mukhavets River using diving equipment. They then secured a piece of “hydraulic junction” – likely a dam – with army aviation support.[7] This exercise could prepare forces to operate in Syria, where ISW forecasts that a pro-regime offensive will begin soon.[8] It could also be preparation for operations in Belarus in various contingencies.

The Kremlin flew two strategic bombers near NATO airspace as part of Slavic Brotherhood exercises on September 22. Two Russian Tu-160M nuclear-capable supersonic strategic bombers departed from the Engels-2 airbase in Saratov, Russia, and flew along the Belarusian border with NATO on September 22.[9] Moscow asserts Slavic Brotherhood’s focus is counterterrorism, however its deployment of supersonic nuclear-capable strategic bombers near NATO airspace was likely meant as a message to NATO.[10]

Russian forces used Tu-160M bombers in operations in Syria Moscow billed as counter-terrorism efforts. Such airframes are likely more capable and costly to fly than would be needed to support battalion-level exercises of the sort described in Belarus, however.  The close approach of such aircraft to the Polish border was likely meant to attract NATO’s attention and possibly gauge its response.

Battalion-sized motor rifle elements of Belarus’ Zaslonovo-based 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade are participating in Kavkaz 2020 field exercises in Kapustin Yar, Astrakhan.[11] A Belarusian communications unit is supporting the motor rifle element’s participation.[12] These elements should return to Belarus after Kavkaz-2020 ends on September 26. The Kremlin, however, will very likely send additional Russian forces into Belarus after Kavkaz-2020 under the rubric of continuous monthly exercises.[13]

ISW will continue monitoring the situation and providing updates.



[1] https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106360/

[2] https://eng.belta(.)by/society/view/russian-paratroopers-arrive-in-brest-oblast-to-participate-in-army-exercise-133465-2020/; https://iz(.)ru/1060848/2020-09-15/rossiiskie-desantniki-pribyli-v-belorussiiu-na-sovmestnye-ucheniia

[3] ISW initially inaccurately reported elements of the 106th arrived in Brest. https://naviny(.)by/new/20200922/1600775218-voennye-belarusi-i-rf-treniruyutsya-otrazhat-agressiyu-v-menyayushcheysya; https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106360/; https://tass(.)ru/armiya-i-opk/9512817

[4] https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/201503_bp_russian_forces_in_ukraine... http://www.iswresearch.org/2020/09/belarus-warning-update-putin-sends.html

[5] https://function.mil(.)ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12315648@egNews; https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106367/

[6] http://www.iswresearch.org/2020/09/the-kremlin-deploys-brigade-sized-for... http://www.iswresearch.org/2020/09/belarus-warning-update-multiple-russi...

[7] https://tvzvezda(.)ru/news/forces/content/2020922329-hlVR6.html?utm_source=tvzvezda&utm_medium=longpage&utm_campaign=longpage&utm_term=v1; https://function.mil(.)ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12315449@egNews; https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106364/

[8] http://www.iswresearch.org/2020/09/syria-warning-update-syrian-regime.html

[9] https://rg(.)ru/2020/09/22/video-rossijskie-tu-160-proleteli-vdol-granic-belarusi.html

[10] https://www.rbc(.)ru/rbcfreenews/5f576ef59a7947d8ed72fa58

[11] https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106155/; https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106224/; https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106363/

[12] https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106155/; https://www.mil(.)by/ru/news/106224/

[13] http://www.iswresearch.org/2020/09/belarus-warning-update-russian-force....

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Donald H

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Bread Guy said:
What's a few extra troops here and there between friends brothers, right?

Still a lot of dark dealing to ferret out of this situation. We don't know, or may just 'I' don't know if there are any possible choices to lead Belarus who are sympthetic to the West?

Or maybe somebody does know and will contribute an opinion that can break the logjam on this slowly developing story? As noted by you, Putin is taking no chances and so must be suspicious of Western involvement of some kind.
 

MilEME09

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Donald H said:
Still a lot of dark dealing to ferret out of this situation. We don't know, or may just 'I' don't know if there are any possible choices to lead Belarus who are sympthetic to the West?

Or maybe somebody does know and will contribute an opinion that can break the logjam on this slowly developing story? As noted by you, Putin is taking no chances and so must be suspicious of Western involvement of some kind.


well there is this https://tass.com/world/1204197, Anyone with DWAN, and want to follow this, you can sign up for OSINT news alerts straight to your in box each day. Gives you great sum ups of articles without all the Russian propaganda usually. Either way we will see more of the same I think in the weeks to come, we will need a dramatic event to shift the balance either way.
 

Donald H

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https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/protests-erupt-in-belarus-amid-secret-inauguration-92450373646

Protesters are rising up again but the most interesting thing about this story is that Trump refuses to voice or show any support for them and that begs the question why?
 

CBH99

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Donald H said:
https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/protests-erupt-in-belarus-amid-secret-inauguration-92450373646

Protesters are rising up again but the most interesting thing about this story is that Trump refuses to voice or show any support for them and that begs the question why?


With all do respect Donald - and I truly mean that, you've been polite, engaged, enthusiastic, etc etc - so I do mean the following with respect to yourself.

But honestly, who cares?  If that's the most interesting part of the story, I can't begin to imagine how boring the rest of it was  ;)


At the end of the day, Trump is a busy guy.  He's the President of the United States, regardless of whether people like it or not.  Not only that, but he has an election coming up soon also.


As per most world the leaders, his day is jam packed with meetings, phone calls, trips, speeches, public appearances, etc etc.  Who cares if he's got other things on his mind & on his schedule than to give a shout-out to protesters in Belarus? 
 

Donald H

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CBH99 said:
With all do respect Donald - and I truly mean that, you've been polite, engaged, enthusiastic, etc etc - so I do mean the following with respect to yourself.

But honestly, who cares?  If that's the most interesting part of the story, I can't begin to imagine how boring the rest of it was  ;)


At the end of the day, Trump is a busy guy.  He's the President of the United States, regardless of whether people like it or not.  Not only that, but he has an election coming up soon also.


As per most world the leaders, his day is jam packed with meetings, phone calls, trips, speeches, public appearances, etc etc.  Who cares if he's got other things on his mind & on his schedule than to give a shout-out to protesters in Belarus?

Thank you for your compliments on my posting style! And so with all due respects to your opinion, I can understand how busy he must be but still, his lack of comment on the Belarus situation has become the 'elephant in the room' here now.

But I'll grant you one thing and that is that it seems to be of little interest to the media. I mean, at the moment the question on support for Belarus protesters is better left ignored by Trump for his political purposes.

Can you formulate a speculative comment by Trump that would be sure to energize and please his voters?

 

dapaterson

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OldSolduer

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Alleged Belarus security forces call out bomb threat to get a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Belarus, where security arrested a journalist on board.

Yet another reason to never fly Ryanair.


Did they go back to calling themselves the KGB? They sure act like them.
 

CBH99

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Did they go back to calling themselves the KGB? They sure act like them.
So government agents, while working - intentionally started a fight with the aircrew of a commercial airliner carrying passengers??

Wow. Just wow.

AND because there was someone on the plane they didn’t like, and were targeting?


Don’t even know what to say 🤦🏼‍♂️
 

The Bread Guy

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So government agents, while working - intentionally started a fight with the aircrew of a commercial airliner carrying passengers??
That's one version - also shared via RUS's info-machine/state media - here's another from RUS independent media ...
... Minsk's airport had released a statement earlier saying the plane had to make an emergency landing there at 1215 GMT following a bomb scare.

"The plane was checked, no bomb was found and all passengers were sent for another security search," said Nexta, a Belarus opposition channel on the Telegram messaging app, which Protasevich previously edited.

Lukashenko's press service said on its own Telegram channel the president had given the order to divert the flight and had ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to accompany the plane ...
Meanwhile, some what-about-ism from the BLR info-machine/state media ....
In connection with the incident with the plane in the Belarusian airspace, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recalled the forced landings in Austria at the request of the United States and in Ukraine, BelTA has learned.

"It is shocking that the West calls the incident in the Belarusian airspace ‘shocking',” Maria Zakharova said on her Facebook page. “The life of ‘civilized democracies' in line with the phrase ‘quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi' [what is permissible for Jupiter may not be permissible for a bull] is no longer relevant as the once leaders have long squandered their true leadership qualities. The blood and sufferings of millions around the world have knocked the West off the pedestal from which it preached.”

“They either need to be shocked by every such incident, including the landing of the Bolivian air force one in Austria at the request of the United States and the landing of a Belarusian plane carrying an anti-Maidan activist by Ukraine 11 minutes after the takeoff, or should not be so emotional about similar behavior by others,” she stressed ...
Not to worry, though - this from RUS state media ...
The Belarusian government has set up a commission to investigate the incident with the forced landing of a Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight that took off from Athens, the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications said on Monday.

"A commission has been established to investigate the situation. The circumstances will be published in the near future," the ministry said ...
Let the disinformation kettle simmer ....
 

OldSolduer

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So government agents, while working - intentionally started a fight with the aircrew of a commercial airliner carrying passengers??

Wow. Just wow.

AND because there was someone on the plane they didn’t like, and were targeting?


Don’t even know what to say 🤦🏼‍♂️
I’m not surprised at all.
 

dimsum

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So government agents, while working - intentionally started a fight with the aircrew of a commercial airliner carrying passengers??

Wow. Just wow.

AND because there was someone on the plane they didn’t like, and were targeting?


Don’t even know what to say 🤦🏼‍♂️

Yeah, the Cold War is totally over :sneaky:
 

CBH99

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I’m not surprised at all.
I caught up with some articles, and am “kinda” reading between the lines. Obviously a lot going on behind the scenes with this one.

One plane lands at the request of the US, another forced to land due to false bomb threat. The shadows seem pretty busy last night & today.

Are you not surprised by the general situation / incidents? Or are you not surprised that KGB agents fought aircrew on a commercial plane?

(And a “wow!” to them still calling themselves the KGB!”
 

MilEME09

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I doubt this will lead to anything serious, other then banning overflight, a few sections, the play book is the same, and as long as Belarus has Russia on its side, sanctions will not mean much.
 

Altair

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I doubt this will lead to anything serious, other then banning overflight, a few sections, the play book is the same, and as long as Belarus has Russia on its side, sanctions will not mean much.
I never understand why full economic blockades are off the table.

North Korea can withstand it because its people have never known any different.

Having Belarus cut off from all european trade though, thats 23 percent of its market.
 

CBH99

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Perhaps (just brainstorming here, not sure if this has merit or not) it's because of it's proximity and borders with certain EU countries, and one convenient border with Russia.

Maybe they fear what Belarus may do, if hit with full economic sanctions? With it's friend Russia to one side, and a border with Ukraine, que the espionage, acts of terrorism, Russian forces possibly staging from Belarus (even if just overflights or ISR assets that don't leave Belarus airspace), etc. Little green men sneaking over the border. Same risks would apply to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania.


The luck of geography seems to be very much on Belarus' side, unfortunately. And very much not on our side. (Opposite if armed conflict were to break out.) They could destabilize a big chunk of Europe just by pestering their neighbours if they wanted to. So maybe the sanctions just aren't seen as worth it? (Also, the sanctions would hurt the economies of countries that Belarus does trade with, too, albeit not as much.)


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