As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 3-day plan to subdue Ukraine runs into its 63rd day, Russia and the rest of the world continue to be shocked by the stalwart resistance of Ukraine. Unbeknownst to the world, there is a small group of Belarusian Saboteurs who are helping the Ukrainians fight off the Russians.
There are two generally accepted reasons why the Ukrainians have been able to hold out for this long. First is the unexpected capability and morale of Ukrainian fighters, who were more prepared to fight than most would have predicted. Second is the poor performance of the Russian army in Ukraine who the experts grossly overrated.
A covert network of Belarusian hackers, rail workers, and security force defectors have been working behind the scenes in their home country to cut off the Russian invasion force from much-needed supplies during the first phase of the war when the Russians were trying to invade Kyiv. Particularly, the group was also part of the reason why the 40-mile Russian convoy had stalled just outside of Kyiv.
SOFREP previously reported on the Ukrainian Special Forces, which used claymores to destroy the convoy, and the elite drone unit Aerorozvidka, which attacked the 40-mile Russian convoy with drones while they were freezing and starving to death.
These saboteurs attacked a series of railway links in Belarus that connect Russia to Ukraine. The group targeted control panels which were essential in running the rail systems. The attacks proved to be simple but effective, resulting in a deadlock that lasted for several days in the train system. This forced the Russian troops to redirect their supply lines by the road.
The network has been at work since the first days of the invasion. Although it is difficult to quantify their contributions, disrupting the signaling systems will often force trains to slow down to a crawl and restrict the number of cars in operation.
“Given the Russian reliance on trains, I’m sure it contributed to some of the problems they had in the north. It would have slowed down their ability to move,” a research fellow at the U.K.-based Royal United Services Institute, Emily Ferris, said. “They couldn’t push further into Ukrainian territory and snarled their supply lines because they had to rely on trucks.”
The disruptions also bought the Ukrainian fighters time to evaluate the Russian invasion and adopt an appropriate strategy for its defense.
“I can’t say we were the most important factor, but we were an important brick in the wall,” Belarusian activist and trade unionist Yury Ravavoi said.
The effects of the attacks were mostly felt in the Kyiv region, which is on the northern side of Ukraine. Disrupted supply lines are, in large part, one of the contributing factors that stopped the Russian army from ever occupying the Ukrainian capital. According to the Pentagon, Russian troops stationed in Belarus are now being deployed to the eastern front as part of Moscow’s strategy shift.
“We believe the fact that the Russians gave up on taking Kyiv is a result of our work because the Russians didn’t feel as safe in Belarus as they had expected,” Franak Viacorka said. He is the spokesperson for Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
“Thousands of Russian troops didn’t receive food, they didn’t receive fuel, and they didn’t receive equipment on time,” he added.
Head of the Ukrainian Railway Company, Oleksandr Kamyshin, hinted in an interview that the actions of Belarusian “partisans” caused a halt in railway shipments of Russian supplies for some time.
“I will not specify the details, but I am grateful to Belarusian railway workers for what they are doing,” Kamyshin said. “They are brave and honest people who have helped us.”
Lessons from History
According to sources, the saboteurs drew inspiration from World War II Belarusian history, specifically during the time the country was resisting Nazi occupation. The Rail Wars, as they called it, saw Belarusian partisan units attack German-built railways and train stations to disrupt the Nazi war machine. This story is a glorified part of Belarusian history and is being taught in schools.
Decades later, the Belarusians are once again rising up against an authoritarian force, this time in the form of Putin’s Russia. The deployment of thousands of Russian troops through Belarus has caused widespread displeasure toward Russians and the Belarus government for being the staging area for the northern attack route to Kyiv, which ultimately led these saboteurs to do their work in the background.
Former security official Lt. Col Alexander Azarov said that there are three primary factions involved in the sabotage: IT specialists, railway workers, and former security force members. Rail workers leak information on Russian deployment and the location of key equipment. Another group picks up the intel and formulates an attack.
“Our movement is not centralized,” Azarov said. “It’s not like there’s a leader of the resistance. It’s horizontal, with dozens of groups working on the ground.”
Belarusian partisans, set on fire the main control station at the Baronivichi train station to make sure that Russian tanks and machinery won’t be able to be transported to fight the war in Ukraine. #Ukraine #Belarus pic.twitter.com/tCNKvWROm3
— Belarus Free Theatre (@BFreeTheatre) March 1, 2022
Unlike their World War II predecessors, today’s Belarusian saboteurs intend to limit the casualties of their attacks to equipment, not people.
“We didn’t want to kill any Russian army or Belarusian train drivers. We used a peaceful way to stop them,” Ravovoi said, who refrained from giving further details on how the attacks were being coordinated for the safety of the saboteurs.
Belarusian Saboteurs and a Potential Price to Pay
Launching attacks on the Russian supply line comes with risk. Belarusian authorities have launched an effort to stop attacks on the railways and track down the saboteurs. They have also released a decree which brands such attacks as terrorism, which may lead to 20 years in prison.
#Belarus The Interior Ministry also published this video about men seriously wounded near Babruisk. The regime now shoots with live ammunition at people who attempt to stop and sabotage railways. Lukashenko would rather kill his own citizens than stop helping Russia in its war pic.twitter.com/l5xxMGYqgI
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) April 6, 2022
Early in April, four men were arrested under suspicion of trying to sabotage the railway. Released video footage shows the men bloodied and bruised. The men were shot with live ammunition because they allegedly resisted arrest.
“The regime now shoots with live ammunition at people who attempt to stop and sabotage railways. Lukashenko would rather kill his own citizens than stop helping Russia in its war,” Belarusian journalist Hanna Liubakova wrote in a tweet with a video of the arrested men.