Last April, we reported a story about Belarusian saboteurs crippling the supply lines of Ukraine. Today, another group of Belarusians is fighting Russian forces in Ukraine not just for the Ukrainians’ freedom but also for their own motherland. A battalion of Belarusian fighters named the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion is risking their lives on the battlefields of Ukraine as they fight not only against Russian President Vladimir Putin but also against Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

The Republic of Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe that sits along the northern border of Ukraine. Its current administration, which has been in power for over 28 years, is deeply tied with Moscow and Putin. As a result of poor governance, the country is one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Pavel Kulazhanka, one of the fighters, has been fighting to overthrow the Belarusian dictator for over a decade. It began as simple protests by dissidents. Soon enough, their actions became more radical. They started sabotaging train lines and bombing military fixtures.

Eventually, his actions forced him to flee his home country of Belarus. Kulazhanka found himself starting a new life in New York City, where he became a cage fighter. Despite being thousands of miles away from home, his sights never left having a free Belarus.

“Life is about leaps of faith,” Kulazhanka said in an interview in the western suburbs of the Kyiv region.

“Fighting Lukashenko was one. Fleeing Belarus was another. Throwing away my life in America was one more. And fighting here, we are making the biggest one of all.”

Members of the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion (Kastus Kalinouski Battalion Facebook). Source:
Members of the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion (Kastus Kalinouski Battalion Facebook)

Today, Kulazhanka is one of the hundreds of Belarusian fighters that took up arms to help Ukraine fight against Russia. He believes that this war might be the opportunity to finally defeat Putin and ultimately topple the Moscow-backed dictator, Lukashenko.

Many of Kulazhanka’s fellow fighters have joined the “Kastus Kalinouski Battalion,” whose name was taken from the leader of the Belarusian insurrection against imperial Russia in the 1860s. These people are taking advantage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “foreign legion” initiative, wherein foreigners will be allowed to serve in the ranks of the country’s military.