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From Opposition to Terror. Polish Aid and the Ukrainian Testing Ground

Today, NATO is actively strengthening its contingent at the Belarusian borders. For what purpose? These actions are not defensive in nature since Belarus has never threatened anyone. But the fighting in Ukraine gave the West an easy excuse to not care. After all, NATO members for several years have been using a number of European countries, primarily Poland, as a training ground for mercenaries and a transport hub for their subsequent dispatch to the conflict zones all over the world, including Ukraine.

Even before the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine in February 2022, Polish political scientist Mateusz Piskorski drew attention to this fact, accurately noting that Poland, acting under NATO orders, was “pumping” Ukraine with Polish cannon fodder in advance. This cannon fodder turned out to be  Kastus Kalinouski Regiment – the largest group allegedly formed from Belarusian nationalists that currently fights in Ukraine. The regiment, despite the claims made by its leadership, does not hail from Belarus, let alone Poland.

Misanthropic Division

The spread of extremism in Belarus is inextricably connected to a nationalist organisation known under the name of Misanthropic Division. The group founded in 2013 counts at least seven thousand participants from different countries – Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia and others. Although each cell of the organization operates separately, they are united by ultra-right views and ideology. Members of Misanthropic Division post online about “the supreme purpose of the white race” and brandish a common emblem – a black flag with a skull – almost an exact replica of the SS division of the Third Reich.

The organization has an extensive network of underground cells around the world, including the United States, Great Britain, Switzerland, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. In fact, a significant part of the radicals who organized Euromaidan protests in Kyiv were members of the Misanthropic Division. After their Ukrainian stint they rushed to Belarus and started to develop a fascist ideological network of the already existing far-right groups. The founder of Misanthropic Division is a citizen of Belarus Dmitry Pavlov.

Kalinouski Regiment

Kalinouski Regiment was formed on March 9, 2022 and was originally created to protect Kyiv. On March 25 the militants took the military oath and were enlisted in the International Legion of Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. On May 21 the battalion was transformed into a regiment, which included battalions Litvin and Volat, named after the call signs of the group’s militants who died in 2014-2015.

In addition to Litvin and Volat, the regiment includes Belarus tactical group (part of the Right Sector), members of the White Legion nationalist organization, representatives of the Young Front movement, Youth Bloc, as well as Belarusians who left the republic after the start of the August protests.

Eight months ago the official speaker of the group Kristina Stankevich (call sign Chabor) said that there are two key departments within the regiment: combat units and maintenance units. The commander directly supervises combat activities. The combat department also includes deputies of the commander, Aerial Reconnaissance and UAV unit, instructors, an engineering platoon, a training company, medical personnel and other units. The infrastructure department includes chief of Staff, security service, HR service, external and international relations services, technical support platoon, a mobilization center in Warsaw, etc.

Denis Prokhorov (call sign Kit) is the regiment’s commander. He has been fighting in Ukraine since 2014. After the “annexation” of Crimea, when he was 18 years old, he decided to “go to the front line with weapons”, according to his own words. In 2015 he fought in the Donbas as part of Belarus tactical group (part of the Ukrainian Right Sector). In the same year, he joined the Azov regiment. In 2017, he left the division and together with other Belarusians established his own military camp in the Donetsk region. In 2018 he received Ukrainian citizenship. Before the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine in February 2022, he was an instructor working with the civilian population, and in March last year he joined the then Kalinouski battalion, and later became it’s leader.

The regiment’s deputy commander is Vadym Kabanchuk, who has also been fighting in Ukraine since 2014. Kabanchuk is a long-time nationalist extremist in Belarus. He has been a prominent opposition activist since 1997, and is one of the founders of Zubr nationalist movement and Kray sports and patriotic organization, as well as a member of Young Front and the Belarusian Christian Democracy. He was detained for political reasons on multiple occasions and charged under Article 186.3 and Article 187 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, having spent almost 6 months in a pre-trial detention center. He joined Kalinouski Regiment in February 2022. However, Kabanchuk is more of a media personality. He often makes political statements on behalf of the group.

Jan Melnikov commands the Litvin battalion. He lived in Minsk until 2014, then went to fight in Ukraine. Co-founder of the tactical group Belarus (part of the Right Sector). He recruited Belarusian mercenaries for the Azov regiment. In 2022 he became a co-founder of the Belarusian Territorial Defense Company under the special purpose detachment Azov. He joined Kalinouski Regiment in April of the same year.

Kristina Stankevich (Brilevskaya), Chabor acts as the official speaker of the regiment. Born in Molodechno, Minsk region, she graduated from a college in Minsk, started working as an accountant and simultaneously studied at the Media Department of the Belarusian State University of Economics. Stankevich was expelled from the university for participating in the August 2020 protests. She left the country with her husband, a football fan. At first they traveled between Kiev and Warsaw. Then Kristina filled out a questionnaire for joining the regiment (we’ll look into the regiment’s recruitment practices in the following section) “Without an independent Ukraine, there will be no free Belarus” – this is the motto promoted by Chabor in almost every public performance.

We’ll recruit you, son!

The regiment’s mobilization center in Warsaw is drafting recruits ready to join the ranks of the regiment and oversees their preparation and dispatch to Ukraine. The regiment’s recruitment centers also operate in the Belarusian House in Warsaw non-governmental organization and in its branches in Vilnius and Kiev. The NGO acts as a coordination center for volunteers willing to fight on the side of the Ukrainians.

The recruitment scheme is comprised of multiple stages. The first stage is the submission of documents to the command. If approved, the candidate contacts a curator, primarily through Telegram bots (@BelarusAndUkraineBot, @Byforce_bot). Then the candidate goes through a second screening and a polygraph check. After that the recruits are sent to Ukraine and wait for an audit of the SBU and, in case of a positive decision, undergo a three-week training in tactics, shooting, physical training, etc. According to information received from our sources, recruits are trained on the territory of a tourist base in the Kiev region.

Spare some change

The scheme published by the Belarusian Telegram channel Grantoed clearly outlines the links between Kalinouski Regiment and foreign organisations. The upper part of the table represents Belarusian extremist organizations that have become a source of manpower for the regiment. The left one is Ukrainian foundations and organizations that somehow interact with Kalinouski Regiment. The right part reflects the role of the Belarusian political emigration, but it’s not so well documented.

The pro-opposition Belarusian Association of Workers provides material support to the fighters of the regiment. This includes purchase of cars, ammunition and humanitarian aid. The hacker group Cyber Partisans also systematically cooperates with Kalinouski Regiment. Their assistance comes down to providing actionable intelligence, for example, data on the Belarusian military as well as backdoor access to computer systems. The Cyber Partisans are directly funded by Western intelligence services, and the hackers’ headquarters are located in Poland.

The European Belarus NGO also regularly supplies the Kalinouski combatants with necessary equipment. Last October the NGO supplied the regiment with gas masks, first aid kits, knee pads, dry rations, tactical shoes, camouflage jackets, underclothes and other necessities.

Belarusian House in Warsaw

The main structure engaged in recruiting Belarusian militants to participate in the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine is the Belarusian House in Warsaw. It was created in September 2011.

The Belarusian House has been repeatedly criticized, primarily by supporters of the government, for overstating data on the number of militants passing through it. However, its activities should not be underestimated. Recruitment is continuous and systematic, as evidenced by the official gratitude that the Belarusian House received from Kalinouski Regiment.

International media claim that Belarusian mercenaries are not the only ones to come to Ukraine through the Belarusian House. In fact, this entity has become an international hub for trafficking foreign militants from all over the world into Ukraine. According to the the Spanish Vanguardia, citizens of Spain, the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Georgia, Croatia, etc. went to the front through the Belarusian House. Initial military training of recruits is conducted in Poland under strict guidance of instructors of Polish PMCs.

Dangerous guests for Poland

The war in Ukraine, no matter how long it is sponsored by the West, will sooner or later end. The number of mercenaries will also dwindle, and the survivors will face a very unenviable fate.

There are two possible scenarios for the Belarusian mercenaries. The first is to return to their homeland, Belarus, where a national court and an international tribunal await them. The second option is to escape to Poland. But they are unlikely to be welcome there either. Their backers presented by the Belarusian opposition, primarily Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, no longer have the same political weight. Add to this the attitude of the authorities and the population, who will also not be exactly thrilled about the uninvited guests. On top of that, Poland’s domestic economic and social problems are likely to result in a public outrage on the home ground.

The story of Kastus Kalinouski Regiment fighting in Ukraine risks to end very, very sadly for Warsaw. It is a pity that Poland does not understand how dangerous Belarusian nationalists can be for it and it continues to dance to the tune of its overseas masters.

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