UA-69458566-1

Friday, February 19, 2021

Syria Situation Report: January 30 - February 18, 2021

By Isabel Ivanescu

Key Takeaway: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is struggling to manage a deteriorating security situation in opposition-held Idlib Province as provocative attacks by more extreme al Qaeda affiliates threaten the March 5, 2020, Idlib ceasefire. HTS aligned itself more closely with Turkey in May 2020 in a bid to preserve the ceasefire, angering hardline Salafi-jihadist groups. Newly formed and reactivated fighter cells linked to Hurras al-Din and other al Qaeda affiliates are attacking Turkish and Russian forces. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has assassinated hardliners and arrested senior Hurras al-Din members in a likely attempt to forestall further attacks. These HTS ‘security operations’ could lead to direct conflict between HTS and Hurras al-Din or other al Qaeda-linked groups, as occurred in July 2020. Russian and regime forces demonstrated their displeasure at the mounting attacks by carrying out rare strikes on al Qaeda affiliates in Idlib Province. Attacks on Russian forces could create the pretext for a renewed regime offensive on Idlib, while an HTS failure to contain hardliners may push Turkey to negotiate away a portion of the province.

Click the image below to enlarge. Click here to download the PDF.


  

Belarus Warning Update: Forced Integration with Russia—Not the Protest Movement—Is Lukashenko’s Biggest Threat

February 19, 2021, 2:00 pm EDT

By George Barros

Key Takeaway: The Kremlin’s ongoing campaign to increase Russian control over Belarus poses a larger risk to self-declared Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko than the diminishing Belarusian protest movement in 2021. Lukashenko presented a new strategy to end the crisis in Belarus on February 11-12; he announced plans for a referendum on a new constitution in 2022 and promised economic incentives to placate protesters. Lukashenko seeks to both balance against Kremlin pressure to integrate Belarus into Russian-dominated structures and defuse protester sentiment over the next several years. Lukashenko will likely avoid police crackdowns and instead seek to deescalate protests through the promise of minor concessions without fundamentally relinquishing his dictatorship. The Kremlin will likely intensify pressure against Lukashenko in 2021 to formalize Belarus’ integration into the Union State before Lukashenko can defuse the protests with his promised concessions.

Self-declared Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko outlined his strategy to defuse protests and stabilize his rule in 2021 in a speech on February 11. Lukashenko delivered a keynote speech outlining his strategy for 2021 at the Sixth All-Belarusian National Assembly (BNA) on February 11-12.[1] The Belarusian government holds the BNA every five years to coordinate Belarus’ strategic planning.

Lukashenko claimed NATO’s “blitzkrieg” color revolution against Belarus failed but acknowledged that the protest movement is not over yet. Lukashenko said 2021 is as decisive a moment for Belarus as was the Soviet Union’s fall. Lukashenko is framing the current situation as a deep generational turning point for the country. Lukashenko admitted opposition to his rule is more widespread than he previously recognized, claiming approximately 55 percent of Belarusians support his government.[2] Lukashenko had previously framed opposition protesters as marginal, claiming 80 percent of Belarusians voted for him in August 2020.[3] Lukashenko continued to frame his opposition as agents of a NATO-backed hybrid war.

Lukashenko pledged to hold a national referendum on a new constitution in 2022 and promised several economic and political incentives in a likely attempt to defuse protests. Lukashenko promised that a new constitution will be ready by the end of 2021. Lukashenko will likely include a promised referendum on the constitution in Belarus’ January 2022 local elections. He promised to strengthen self-governance, provide free COVID-19 vaccines, expand pensions, and offer other economic incentives.

These concessions are unlikely to meaningfully reduce Lukashenko’s centralized control of Belarus. Lukashenko did not provide details on how the constitution would change, other than stating Belarus should remain a presidential republic, rendering serious institutional reform unlikely.[4] Lukashenko did not reiterate his previous promise to not seek reelection when his current term expires in 2025.[5] Lukashenko rejected the opposition’s proposals to reform the security services.[6] Lukashenko likely seeks to placate most protesters and degrade protest strength through the promise of minor political concessions and economic incentives. 

Lukashenko’s efforts to defuse the protests will likely overcome the opposition’s push to renew protests and force negotiations with Lukashenko in spring 2021. Lithuania-based Belarusian opposition leader Svitlana Tikhanouskaya seeks to renew protests in spring 2021 and regain momentum through an ambitious timeline to force negotiations with Lukashenko. Tikhanouskaya released a “new strategy” on February 9 that maintains the opposition’s existing objectives but defines new timelines for further action in spring 2021.[7] Tikhanouskaya called on the opposition to resume street protests in March 2021 to force Lukashenko to negotiate with the opposition in May 2021.

Lukashenko’s strategy to defuse the protests will likely impair Tikhanouskaya’s efforts to force negotiations. Lukashenko does not need to pacify every protester, as Tikhanouskaya claims, to overcome the opposition. Lukashenko will likely ignore demands for negotiations in May 2021 and the opposition is unlikely to force him into negotiations before that date. Tikhanouskaya has previously set deadlines to force negotiations with Lukashenko, all of which failed.[8] Protests will likely intensify slightly as the weather improves in spring 2021, but they will likely not achieve the same scale they did in fall 2020. Lukashenko likely assesses he can outlast the protests by eroding protester will through the promise of changes in early 2022, avoiding the need for a violent crackdown.

Lukashenko announced plans for a new national security concept, which he likely seeks to use to position himself as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s equal partner in defense of Russia and Belarus by explicitly orienting Belarus as the target of a Western hybrid war. Lukashenko said Belarus will update its national security concept to defend against potential NATO information operations and cyberattacks.[9] He also drew parallels between protests in Belarus and recent anti-Putin protests in Russia.[10] Lukashenko likely seeks to appeal to Putin to pursue their joint interests and halt Kremlin pressure on Belarus by linking the protests against both leaders under the rubric of Western hybrid wars. Lukashenko’s embrace of this false Kremlin framing will likely increase opportunities for Putin to pressure Lukashenko for integration concessions, however.

Lukashenko likely seeks to limit the Kremlin’s ability to pressure Belarus into Russian-dominated structures by framing Belarus and Russia as equal partners in the Union State. Lukashenko seeks to prevent Belarus’ further integration into the Union State—a Kremlin-dominated supranational organization between Russia and Belarus with the stated goal of federally integrating both states under a joint structure.[11] The Kremlin has exploited Lukashenko’s vulnerability to expand Belarus’ integration with Russia and gained leverage over Belarus since protests began in August 2020.

Lukashenko stated that Union State integration “presupposes the full preservation of the sovereignty of both Russia and Belarus without the formation of any new supranational bodies.”[12] Lukashenko additionally framed integration as already complete and stated that the Russian and Belarusian peoples would have to agree to pursue further measures.[13] Lukashenko likely seeks to slow Kremlin pressure by framing additional integration as dependent on additional political consultations.

Lukashenko will likely increase his outreach to China to hedge against Russian integration pressure, although the prospects of success in this effort are unclear. Lukashenko expressed support to expand China’s economic presence in Belarus, claimed Beijing would provide Belarus with COVID-19 vaccines, and expressed support for coordinating Eurasian Economic Union activities in Central Asia with the Chinese Belt and Road initiative—a Chinese economic initiative that undermines Russian influence in Central Asia.[14] Lukashenko has supported developing the Belt and Road initiative since at least 2016.[15] Although China delivered 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Belarus on February 19, Beijing has not publicly reciprocated Lukashenko’s recent calls for intensified economic cooperation.[16] Chinese investment in Belarus decreased by 77 percent in 2020 and China’s ambassador to Belarus reportedly did not attend the BNA.[17] China’s ambassador to Belarus gave a speech at the fifth BNA in 2016.[18] Lukashenko is unlikely to succeed in replacing Russian patronage with Chinese support; however, Lukashenko’s turn to China could give him additional leverage with Moscow—if Beijing reciprocates it.

The Kremlin will likely intensify pressure against Lukashenko to formalize Belarus’ integration in the Union State before Lukashenko can defuse the protests, which have granted Putin leverage over Lukashenko. Putin will likely pressure Lukashenko for more political and military integration concessions during their upcoming meeting on February 22, 2021—their first meeting since September 2020.[19] Putin will likely pressure Lukashenko to expand Russia’s military basing in Belarus when they renew existing basing agreements this year. The 25-year basing agreement for Russia’s two existing radar/radio bases in Belarus expires on June 6, 2021, and Moscow and Minsk are negotiating an extension.[20] The Kremlin will likely reject Lukashenko’s framing of Belarus and Russia as equal partners and frame even deeper integration as necessary for Lukashenko to overcome the crisis.

Belarus’ forced integration with Russia will remain Lukashenko’s greatest threat in 2021. Belarus’ protests are unlikely to escalate. Lukashenko will likely avoid police crackdowns and instead attempt a long-term approach to deescalate protests and reduce Russian leverage. However, the Kremlin’s interests are served by maintaining pressure against Lukashenko through a prolonged crisis. Kremlin pressure will likely lead to further protests if only by provoking renewed public opposition to Russian influence. The Kremlin’s previous involvement in the crisis briefly shifted the protests’ central focus away from Lukashenko and toward the Kremlin, for example.[21] Putin may attempt to prolong the protests and prevent Lukashenko’s efforts to defuse the protests.

 


[1] https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/shestoe-vsebelorusskoe-narodnoe-sobranie; https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/uchastie-vo-vtorom-dne-vi-vsebelorusskogo-narodnogo-sobraniya

[2] https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/shestoe-vsebelorusskoe-narodnoe-sobranie

[3] https://www.belta dot by/president/view/lukashenko-nikakogo-vranjja-na-vyborah-ne-bylo-nelzja-falsifitsirovat-80-407220-2020/

[4] https://tass dot ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/10677735

[5] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-likely-disrupts-lukashenko%E2%80%99s-plan-defusing-protests; https://lenta dot ru/news/2020/10/20/lukashenko/

[6] https://nashkraj dot by/news/obshchestvo/doklad-prezidenta-belarusi-na-vi-vsebelorusskom-narodnom-sobranii/

[7] https://belarusvision dot org/

[8] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-promised-major-opposition-protest-march-fizzles; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-will-likely-outlast-ultimatum-protests; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-intensifies-russian-belarusian-military-integration

[9] https://www.belta dot by/president/view/prezident-belarusi-schitaet-neobhodimym-obnovit-kontseptsiju-natsionalnoj-bezopasnosti-428177-2021

[10] https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/shestoe-vsebelorusskoe-narodnoe-sobranie

[11] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-belarus-update-lukashenko-uses-oil-tariffs-delay-integration-russia

[12] https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/shestoe-vsebelorusskoe-narodnoe-sobranie; https://www.gazeta dot ru/politics/2021/02/12_a_13476920.shtml; https://souzveche dot ru/articles/politics/56066/; https://primepress dot by/news/ekonomika/dalneyshaya_integratsiya_s_rossiey_predpolagaet_polnoe_sokhranenie_suvereniteta_obeikh_stran_lukashe-29587/; https://www.ng dot ru/news/702199.html.

[13] https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/shestoe-vsebelorusskoe-narodnoe-sobranie; https://www.gazeta dot ru/politics/2021/02/12_a_13476920.shtml; https://souzveche dot ru/articles/politics/56066/

[14] https://president.gov dot by/ru/events/shestoe-vsebelorusskoe-narodnoe-sobranie; https://lenta dot ru/news/2021/02/11/bel_luka_vac/

[15] Lukashenko and Chinese president Xi Jinping have cooperated on the Belt and Road initiative since at least 2016. https://news.tut dot by/economics/514287.html; https://www.belta dot by/president/view/belarus-i-kitaj-zakljuchili-paket-soglashenij-i-memorandumov-o-sotrudnichestve-v-raznyh-sferah-212427-2016/;

[16] https://www.belta dot by/society/view/proizvodstvo-kitajskoj-vaktsiny-protiv-koronavirusa-mogut-lokalizovat-v-belarusi-429509-2021/

[17] https://www.belarus dot by/en/press-center/news/leaders-of-belarus-china-discuss-political-cooperation-trade-vaccine-in-phone-conversation_i_124556.html; https://eng.belta dot by/president/view/leaders-of-belarus-china-discuss-political-cooperation-trade-vaccine-in-phone-conversation-136904-2021/; http://www.gov dot cn/xinwen/2021-01/26/content_5582810.htm; https://nn dot by/?c=ar&i=268325; https://en.belapan dot by/archive/2021/02/15/en__16120215n; https://www.economy.gov dot by/ru/pezultat-ru/

[18] https://www.belarus dot by/by/press-center/all-belarusian-peoples-congress/tsuj-tsymn-uns---vazhnaja-pljatsoka-dlja-dzelu-naroda--paltychnym-zhytsts-krany_i_0000125687.html

[19] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-softens-his-opposition-protests-seeking-leverage; https://eng.belta dot by/president/view/kremlin-lukashenko-putin-will-meet-on-22-february-137571-2021/

[20] https://sputnik dot by/defense_safety/20210216/1046924978/Pravitelstvo-RF-khochet-prodlit-dogovory-o-voennykh-bazakh-v-Belarusi.html

[21] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-belarusian-opposition-begins-first-anti-kremlin-shift-after

  

Monday, February 8, 2021

Belarus Warning Update: Russia Fields New Motor Rifle Division in Kaliningrad and Conducts Joint Command Training with Belarus

February 8, 2021, 5:00 EDT

By George Barros with Savannah Modesitt

The Kremlin is increasing its projection capabilities against both NATO and Belarus.

The Kremlin announced in December 2020 its decision to field a new motorized rifle division in Kaliningrad. Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov announced on December 7, 2020, that the Kremlin decided to reinforce the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps with a motorized rifle division in response to an alleged NATO military buildup near Kaliningrad.[1] Nosatov said this new division includes one motorized rifle regiment, one artillery regiment, and one separate tank regiment.

This new division’s formation is likely still underway. The Russian Ministry of Defense is still renovating barracks for new elements of the 11th Army Corps as of January 2021.[2]

The Kremlin likely began plans to form a division under the 11th Army Corps before 2019. Each Russian ground forces division structurally has at least three combat units each at the brigade/regimental level.[3] The 11th Army Corps had only two combat brigades before 2019. The Kremlin reinforced the 11th Army Corps with a tank regiment—increasing the Army Corps’ total combat units to three like other Russian ground unit divisions—in January 2019.[4] The Kremlin likely intended the fielding of this tank regiment in 2019 to enable the creation of this division later.

The Kremlin’s military buildup in Kaliningrad poses a significant threat to NATO. The division’s formation in Kaliningrad compliments other ongoing Russian military efforts to project against NATO from Belarus. The Kremlin likely seeks to establish a continuous Russian military presence in Belarus and has intensified efforts to do so since August 2020.[5] The division’s formation in conjunction with Russia’s total freedom of movement in Belarus would further enhance Russian forces’ ability to threaten the Suwalki Gap and geographically isolate NATO members Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia from the rest of the alliance.

The Belarusian Ministry of Defense (MoD) began Russian-Belarusian joint headquarters training for the Russian-Belarusian "Regional Grouping of Forces’" (RGV) Joint Command in Minsk on February 8, 2021.[6] Unspecified Belarusian and Russian defense personnel are participating in this staff training, which reportedly will run from February 8-12.[7] The primary stated goal of this training is to coordinate Russian and Belarusian command staff in the RGV’s Joint Command to work out RGV operations to protect the Union State—a supranational organization between Belarus and Russia that the Kremlin seeks to use to subsume Belarus. The Russian Ministry of Defense has not commented on this training as of this writing.

The Kremlin will likely increasingly leverage the RGV in its efforts to integrate Belarus into Russia. The RGV’s further formalization with a common military doctrine in October 2020 was a major achievement in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s larger campaign to subordinate former Soviet states’ militaries to Russian-dominated structures.[8] The RGV’s founding treaty from 1999 defines the RGV as a combined military structure—broadly encompassing both forces and control elements—of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus.[9] The original RGV treaty states both Russian and Belarusian defense ministries determine the military units that constitute the RGV. The RGV’s operation jurisdiction is all Belarusian and Russian territory and airspace. Open sources do not discuss the full roster of Russian and Belarusian units that currently constitute the RGV. Former Belarusian Ministry of Defense Andrei Ravkov said the RGV included Russia’s 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District in March 2017.[10]

This training is a February 2021 iteration of the monthly joint Russo-Belarusian joint military activity intended to support Russian-Belarusian military integration at the upcoming Zapad 2021 exercises. The Belarusian MoD explicitly said this training is part of joint Belarusian-Russian activities to prepare for Russia’s capstone military exercise for 2021—Zapad 2021.

The Kremlin may leverage the RGV to exert military pressure against NATO. The Kremlin may use RGV forces to project against NATO given Russian and Belarusian units have already conducted joint exercises with explicitly anti-NATO objectives before Putin coerced self-declared Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko into further formalizing the RGV in October 2020.[11]

Belarusian forces continued combat readiness-exercises postured against NATO throughout Belarus on February 8. The Belarusian MoD mobilized an unspecified battalion of the Minsk-based 120th mechanized brigade to the Borisov training ground in Grodno for exercises and raised an unspecified battalion of the Vitebsk-based 103rd airborne brigade to its highest combat readiness level on February 8.[12] There is no evidence these exercises were preplanned.

These exercises have no clear complimentary Russian counterpart as of this writing. Russian and Belarusian forces held likely joint (though nominally separate) large combat-readiness exercises in Kaliningrad, Belarus, and mainland western Russia on January 25.[13]

ISW will continue monitoring the situation and providing updates.


[1] redstar dot ru/budem-i-dalshe-krepit-boegotovnost/; kaliningrad.rbc dot ru/kaliningrad/07/12/2020/5fcddc6e9a7947d1925c34fc; www.reuters.com/article/russia-military-kaliningrad-idUSKBN28H1B8

[2] function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12341318@egNews

[3] www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Ground%20Forces%20OOB_ISW%20CTP_0.pdf

[4] www.kommersant dot ru/doc/3866301; www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Ground%20Forces%20OOB_ISW%20CTP_0.pdf; www.militarynews dot ru/story.asp?rid=1&nid=506496&lang=RU; www.kommersant dot ru/doc/3866301

[5] www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-moscow-and-minsk-hold-simultaneous-combat-readiness-exercises; www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment; www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-russia-likely-began-preparing-logistics-supply-lines-belarus; www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment

[6] www.mil dot by/ru/news/110232/

[7] www.mil dot by/ru/news/110232/

[8] www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-intensifies-russian-belarusian-military-integration

[9] docs.cntd dot ru/document/901796828

[10] embassybel dot ru/news/427f175892bb.html; www.militarynews dot ru/story.asp?rid=1&nid=540673&lang=RU

[11] www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-intensifies-russian-belarusian-military-integration

[12] rg dot ru/2021/02/08/pod-grodno-nachalis-ucheniia-tankistov-rezervistov-na-t-72b3.html; www.mil dot by/ru/news/110241/; www.mil dot by/ru/news/110240/;  www.mil dot by/ru/news/110218/

[13] www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-moscow-and-minsk-hold-simultaneous-combat-readiness-exercises

 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Belarus Warning Update: Belarusian Forces May Deploy to Syria in Late 2021

By George Barros with Jennifer Cafarella

February 4, 2021

A Belarusian veterans group claims the Belarusian Armed Forces (BAF) are preparing to deploy two battalions of so-called “peacekeepers” to Syria in September 2021. BYPOL, an association of former Belarusian security service personnel and military veterans who sympathize with the protest movement against self-declared Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, claimed on January 30 that the BAF ordered Belarus’s two operational commands­—roughly equivalent to Russian military districts—to construct units for peacekeeping and patrolling operations in Syria.[1] BYPOL claims the first Belarusian deployment to Syria will consist of two approximately battalion-sized (300 personnel) units totaling around 600 personnel.[2] The Kremlin likely instigated this order and will facilitate the deployment of Belarusian troops, which would support Russia’s military forces in Syria.

Neither Belarusian nor Kremlin authorities have commented on this alleged deployment. Belarus’ Ministry of Defense spokesperson made a general statement that Belarus “continually seeks new directions” for peacekeeping activities on February 1.[3] ISW offers this low-confidence warning assessment despite the absence of confirmation of the report because of the importance such a deployment would entail for the Kremlin’s campaigns in both Syria and Belarus.

The Kremlin has sought to leverage partner forces in Syria for several years. The Kremlin unsuccessfully proposed that several Commonwealth of Independent State (CIS) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states, including Belarus, send troops to Syria for joint peacekeeping operations in July 2017.[4] Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan declined that request.[5] CSTO member Armenia deployed a sapper company to Aleppo Province, Syria, in February 2019.[6]

The BAF will likely build a new capability for this deployment rather than deploy existing units. The BAF does not currently field two peacekeeping battalions. The Belarusian Army reportedly fields one peacekeeping company of approximately 100 contracted (rather than conscripted) personnel.[7] BYPOL claims Belarusian authorities are offering Belarusians approximately $2,000 per month to contract for this deployment, indicating a new recruitment effort.[8] Belarus’ military will likely increase its current quantity of peacekeeper contractors over the next six months to support a deployment of 600 personnel rather than deploy existing non-peacekeeper units.  

The deployment of battalion-sized units is consistent both with current Russian operations in Syria and with past Russian-Belarusian exercises. Russian military police battalions are the standard operational formation for deployments to Syria.[9] Previous Russian-Belarusian joint exercises have practiced joint operations at the battalion and sub-battalion levels. Russian forces conducted joint exercises “as a single combat formation” at the battalion level with Belarusian forces for the first time on September 20, 2020.[10]

A Belarusian deployment could help Russian units secure ground lines of communication in central Syria. Russia launched a renewed effort to protect valuable oil and gas infrastructure in central Syria in August 2020, including by expanding the footprint of Russia’s military police and Wagner private military forces.[11] Russian-backed forces in Syria, including the Syrian Arab Army 5th Corps, have been conducting counter-ISIS clearing operations along the Deir ez Zour-Palmyra highway since January 19 in response to escalating ISIS ambushes along that road.[12] A Belarusian deployment could bolster regime security operations in the Deir ez-Zour-Palmyra security zone.

A Belarusian deployment to Syria would advance three strategic Kremlin lines of effort in addition to supporting Russia’s Syrian operations.

  1. The Kremlin’s campaign to leverage partner forces in its war in Syria. The Kremlin likely intends to leverage a Belarusian deployment to lend additional legitimacy to Russia’s intervention in Syria by framing it as an international effort. The Kremlin seeks to cultivate partner forces and international coalitions to amplify its own force deployments.[13] ISW forecasted the Kremlin would likely leverage non-Russian forces in future expeditionary operations in January 2021.[14]
  2. The Kremlin’s effort to integrate Russian and Belarusian military units. The Kremlin likely seeks to integrate Belarusian military units under Russian command structures down to the battalion level.[15] Joint Russian-Belarusian operations in Syria would further this Kremlin effort by practicing battalion-level coordination.[16]
  3. The Kremlin’s efforts to increase Russian military influence in Belarus via the planned Zapad 2021 exercises in September 2021. A Belarusian deployment in September 2021 would coincide with Russia’s capstone military exercise for 2021 - Zapad 2021. The Kremlin will likely use the Zapad 2021 exercise to further Russian-Belarusian military integration. Conventional Russian forces likely will deploy to Belarus for Zapad 2021 on a significantly larger scale than they did for Zapad 2017.[17] The Kremlin will likely tie the deployment of Belarusian forces to Syria to this major exercise.

The Kremlin may remove Belarusian officers opposed to the Kremlin’s effort to gain control over the Belarusian military through a Belarusian deployment to Syria. Lukashenko resisted the Kremlin’s efforts to further Russian-Belarusian military integration during the Zapad 2017 exercises.[18] Belarusian officers may attempt to resist intensified Russian pressure for integration in Zapad 2021 as they did in 2017. The alleged deployment to Syria would likely take several of Belarus’ best officers out of Belarus, as the deployment would be Belarus’ first expeditionary deployment. Such a relocation of officers could decrease Belarusian resistance to Russian efforts to maximize Russian-Belarusian military integration during Zapad 2021.

The Kremlin may seek to set a precedent of Belarus acting as a Kremlin proxy. The Kremlin has attempted to use Belarus as a proxy “peacekeeping” force in eastern Ukraine.[19] The Kremlin is likely attempting to do so again in Syria since it likely expanded its leverage over Belarusian forces in late 2020.

The Kremlin may brand Belarusian peacekeepers as a CSTO mission. Russian President Vladimir Putin likely seeks to blur the lines between Russian and CSTO activities to obfuscate Russian actions. The Kremlin may cite a Belarusian “peacekeeping operation” in Syria in its 2021 bid to legitimize the CSTO as a United Nations (UN)-recognized peacekeeping force. The CSTO stated it plans to conduct negotiations with the UN in 2021 to hold CSTO peacekeeping operations under the UN’s auspices.[20] This stated effort aligns with the Kremlin’s assessed campaign to leverage the UN to justify Russia’s international military deployments—an important hybrid war capability the Kremlin is developing.[21]


[1] https://t dot me/By_Pol/161.

[2] https://t dot me/By_Pol/161; https://42.tut dot by/717175.

[3] https://regnum dot ru/news/3179162 https://sputnik dot by/defense_safety/20210201/1046791963/Belorusskie-voennye-planiruyut-rasshiryat-uchastie-v-mirotvorcheskikh-missiyakh.html; https://www.belta dot by/society/view/minoborony-rasskazalo-ob-uchastii-v-mirotvorcheskih-missijah-426609-2021; https://interfax dot by/news/policy/raznoe/1291052/

[4] https://ria dot ru/20170705/1497907227.html; https://naviny dot online/new/20170706/1499333719-mid-belarus-ne-poluchala-oficialnogo-predlozheniya-o-napravlenii-mirotvorcev.

[5] https://eurasianet dot org/csto-ready-but-not-yet-willing-to-send-troops-to-syria; https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-kazakhstan/kazakhstan-denies-its-in-talks-to-send-troops-to-syria-idUKKBN19E0I8; https://thediplomat.com/2017/06/russia-proposes-deploying-kazakhs-and-kyrgyz-to-syria/; https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-csto-kazakhstan-russia-nazarbaev/28661553.html.

[6] https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-sends-another-group-of-sappers-medics-to-syria/29983442.html; https://eurasianet dot org/armenia-sends-military-deminers-and-medics-to-support-russian-mission-in-syria; https://ria dot ru/20200730/1575158378.html; https://eadaily dot com/ru/news/2019/02/19/armyanskie-sapery-pristupili-k-razminirovaniyu-rayona-bliz-siriyskogo-aleppo.

[7] https://42.tut dot by/717175.

[8] https://t dot me/By_Pol/161.

[9]http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/The%20Russian%20Military%E2%80%99s%20Lessons%20Learned%20in%20Syria_0.pdf.

[10] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-nexta-actively-encourages-belarusian-security-service-defections.

[11] https://www.syriahr dotcom/en/181464/.

[12] https://www.enabbaladi dot net/archives/443693.

[13] https://www.syriahr dot com/%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%81-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B8-2/416760/.

[14]http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/The%20Russian%20Military%E2%80%99s%20Lessons%20Learned%20in%20Syria_0.pdf.

[15] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-will-increase-pressure-lukashenko-integrate-belarus-2021.

[16] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-nexta-actively-encourages-belarusian-security-service-defections.

[17] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-will-increase-pressure-lukashenko-integrate-belarus-2021.

[18] https://www.vedomosti dot ru/politics/news/2017/03/20/681893-lukashenko; https://sputnik dot by/defense_safety/20170320/1027926111/lukashenko-utverdil-zamysel-uchenij-zapad-2017.html; https://sputnik dot by/politics/20170203/1027281478/lukashenko-oproverg-informaciyu-chto-rossiya-vvodit-v-belarus-vojska.html; https://rus.postimees dot ee/4250219/lukashenko-nablyudal-za-ucheniyami-zapad-2017-otdelno-ot-putina-oni-rassorilis-podozrevayut-smi; https://www.belarus dot by/ru/press-center/speeches-and-interviews/lukashenko-uchenie-zapad-2017-v-belarusi-neobxodimo-provesti-maksimalno-prozrachno_i_54468.html; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-setting-conditions-long-term-continuous-russian-militar.y

[19] https://www.unian dot info/politics/10699125-lukashenko-says-belarus-ready-to-deploy-peacekeepers-in-donbas.html; https://www.unian dot info/politics/10020203-poroshenko-rejects-belarus-involvement-in-donbas-peacekeeping-mission-media.html.

[20] https://sputnik dot by/defense_safety/20201016/1045917923/ODKB-provedet-peregovory-s-OON-ob-uchastii-v-mirotvorcheskikh-operatsiyakh.html; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiuyVyRIEVg.

[21]http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Putin%27s%20Offset%20The%20Kremlin%27s%20Geopolitical%20Adaptations%20Since%202014.pdf; http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Hybrid%20Warfare%20ISW%20Report%202020.pdf.


 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Syria Situation Report: January 8-29, 2021

By Isabel Ivanescu

Key Takeaway: Fighting between pro-Assad regime forces and local opposition elements in Dera’a Province is at its most intense since Russia brokered reconciliation agreements between the two factions in 2018. Iranian-backed regime units have surrounded the town of Tafas after suffering several casualties while trying to storm the town. Russia-backed forces have pursued their standard approach, pushing for a negotiated solution while other factions in the pro-regime bloc prepare to use force. There has been an inflection in Russian behavior, however; Russia did not intervene to stop the first assault on the town by Iranian-backed forces and threatened to itself carry out airstrikes in the vicinity if locals refused to turn over individuals wanted by the regime. This may represent a Russian belief that Tafas, a hub of anti-Assad activity, will be less likely to capitulate than other towns in which similar events have previously transpired.

Click the image below to expand it. 





Thursday, January 28, 2021

Belarus Warning Update: Moscow and Minsk Hold Simultaneous Combat Readiness Exercises in Kaliningrad, Mainland Russia, and Belarus

By George Barros

January 28, 2021, 5:00 pm EDT

Russian Western Military District (WMD) and Belarusian forces began simultaneous, large combat-readiness exercises in Kaliningrad, Belarus, and mainland western Russia on January 25, 2021. The Russian and Belarusian exercises are nominally separate and do not mention any joint activity; however, the exercises’ similarities in timing, geographic proximity, scale, and type of activity in resemblance to previous joint exercises indicate they are likely connected and complimentary.

Click the image below to expand it.



Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) began a brigade-sized readiness exercise in Kaliningrad on January 25. Brigade-sized elements (approximately 3,000 personnel) of the Russian Baltic Fleet began comprehensive combat readiness exercises with ground, naval, naval infantry, naval aviation, and air defense units in Kaliningrad on January 25.[1] The Russian Ministry of Defense claims these exercises are preplanned and did not specify their end date. Baltic Fleet exercises have continued through January 28 as of this writing.[2]

The WMD also conducted command and control (C2) and signals exercises across five regions (oblasts) in the WMD on January 25. Roughly reinforced-battalion-sized (approximately 800 personnel) signals elements of the Moscow-based First Tank Army conducted communications and C2 exercises across five unspecified oblasts in the WMD on January 25.[3] Belarus borders three oblasts in the WMD.

Belarus began a snap countrywide readiness exercise on January 25. Unspecified elements of Belarus’ Minsk-based 120th, Slonim-based 11th, and Liepiel-based 19th mechanized brigades; the Vitebsk-based 103rd airborne brigade; and other unspecified Belarusian military units are participating.[4] These ongoing exercises include air, air defense, engineer, signals, and other support units. This snap exercise is likely a large-scale strategic readiness exercise given its size, scope, and that the four of Belarus’ six brigades are participating.[5] The Belarusian Ministry of Defense has not specified where else in Belarus the exercises are occurring, or an end date. 

The WMD began another brigade-sized exercise on January 28. Approximately 3,500 personnel of the Russian 6th Combined Arms Army began exercises in Voronezh, Belgorod, Bryansk, Smolensk, Kursk, and Moscow on January 28.[6] This exercise includes C2, signals, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN) activity. The Russian Ministry of Defense claims this exercise was also preplanned and has not specified when it will end. This exercise is occurring in tandem with the ongoing “preplanned” exercises in Kaliningrad and snap readiness exercises in Belarus. Smolensk and Bryansk border eastern Belarus.

These exercises are likely the January 2021 iteration of the monthly joint Russo-Belarusian exercises and are intended to support Russian-Belarusian military integration at the upcoming Zapad 2021 exercises.[7]

Russian and Belarusian forces have conducted joint military exercises on an almost monthly basis since August 2020.[8] Russian President Vladimir Putin and self-declared Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed in September 2020 to hold “almost monthly” joint military exercises in both Belarus and Russia starting in 2021.[9] Western Military District Commander Alexander Zhuravlev said preparations for the Zapad 2021 exercises had already begun in December 2020.[10] A large joint Russian-Belarusian exercise in January 2021 would thus be consistent with the pattern of frequent joint Russian-Belarusian exercises that ISW has observed since August 2020.

The activities from the simultaneous ongoing exercises in Russia and Belarus are consistent with activities from previous observed joint Russian-Belarusian exercises since August 2020.

Russian and Belarusian exercises in January 2021 have similar air defense elements. A battalion-sized air defense element (200 personnel), likely of the Russian Baltic Fleet’s 22nd Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment, began conducting air defense exercises in Kaliningrad on January 24.[11] This exercise was likely connected to the larger brigade-sized exercise that began on January 25, given their close timing. Unspecified elements of the Belarusian Brest-based 115th Anti-Aircraft Rocket Regiment began air defense exercises as in Brest on January 26 as part of Belarus’ larger snap exercise.[12]

Russian and Belarusian military-technical cooperation since August 2020 has emphasized joint air defense.[13] The Kremlin likely seeks to integrate Belarus’ currently independent air defense systems into Russia’s own national air defense system by leveraging the Zapad 2021 exercises.[14] Nominally independent but effectively joint air defense exercises in Kaliningrad and Brest could help prepare for this assessed effort.

Both Russian and Belarusian exercises in January 2021 have similar C2 and signals elements. The pattern of C2 and signals activities in Belarus and the WMD in these late January exercises is consistent with Belarusian and WMD exercises that also emphasized C2 and signals activity throughout fall 2020.[15]

The Kremlin is likely intensifying its operational security to obfuscate its efforts to integrate Belarus’ military into Russia’s. A Kremlin information operation is likely framing these complementary and simultaneous Russian-Belarusian exercises as “independent.” The Kremlin deliberately misrepresented its snap exercises with Belarus in fall 2020 by branding them as “preplanned exercises” to create a false sense of normality.[16]

Minsk’s assertion that Belarusian exercises are “snap” against the Russian claims that WMD exercises are “preplanned” may indicate a Belarusian effort to resist a Kremlin information operation or a lack of information operation coordination. It is also possible that the exercises are unconnected, though that is unlikely given the exercises’ strong correlations and consistency with previously observed patterns of activity.

Forecast: The Zapad 2021 exercises will likely support Putin’s efforts to establish a continuous Russian military presence in Belarus. Zapad 2021 will emphasize the logistical activities necessary to establish supply lines that could support a sustained Russian presence in Belarus. Kremlin-linked newspaper Izvestia reported that Zapad 2021 participants—likely Russian WMD logistics units—will establish a special logistics base to supply troops participating in Zapad 2021 with fuel, lubricants, food, and other materials.[17] This revelation is the latest in a series of indicators of Russia setting conditions to create supply lines to Belarus to support a permanent or near-permanent deployment.[18] The Russian Ministry of Defense announced exercises to transport ammunition and fuel closer to Belarus in early October 2020, for example.[19]

ISW will continue monitoring the situation and providing updates.

 


[1] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12341121@egNews; https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12341121@egNews; https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12340594@egNews; https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12340792@egNews; https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12341172@egNews

[2] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12341121@egNews

[3] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12340507@egNews

[4] https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109800/; https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109816/; https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109859/; https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109916/; https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109867/; https://1reg dot by/2021/01/26/puskovyie-ustanovki-pod-brestom-pereveli-v-boevoe-polozhenie/

[5] Belarus’ likely principle maneuver units are the 6th, 11th, 19th, 120th, 103rd, and 38th brigades. 

[6] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12341119@egNews

[7] https://actualnews dot org/exclusive/379417-the-national-interest-rossija-gotovitsja-k-voennomu-triumfu-v-baltijskom-regione.html

[8] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-softens-his-opposition-protests-seeking-leverage; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-multiple-russian-military-exercises-occurring-western-military; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-kremlin-will-likely-use-october-military-exercises-advance-its; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia%E2%80%99s-unprecedentedly-expansive-military-exercises-fall-2020-seek-recreate-soviet; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment

[9] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-softens-his-opposition-protests-seeking-leverage; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-multiple-russian-military-exercises-occurring-western-military; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-kremlin-will-likely-use-october-military-exercises-advance-its; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia%E2%80%99s-unprecedentedly-expansive-military-exercises-fall-2020-seek-recreate-soviet; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment

[10] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12332338@egNews

[11] https://radiosputnik.ria dot ru/20210124/kaliningrad-1594373776.html; https://eadaily dot com/ru/news/2021/01/24/v-kaliningrade-gotovyatsya-otrazit-uslovnyy-raketnyy-udar-protivnika; https://klops dot ru/news/2021-01-25/227035-sistemy-s-400-triumf-i-kompleksy-pantsir-s-1-v-kaliningradskoy-oblasti-prohodyat-ucheniya-baltflota

[12] https://1reg dot by/2021/01/26/puskovyie-ustanovki-pod-brestom-pereveli-v-boevoe-polozhenie/

[13] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-belarus-confirms-plans-purchase-advanced-air-defense-systems

[14] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-and-kremlin-vie-control-over-future-russian-weapons; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-intensifies-russian-belarusian-military-integration; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-belarus-confirms-plans-purchase-advanced-air-defense-systems

[15] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-russia-likely-began-preparing-logistics-supply-lines-belarus; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-setting-conditions-long-term-continuous-russian-military; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-police-detain-demonstrators-protests-escalate; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-russia%E2%80%99s-western-military-district-prepares-october-exercises; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-kremlin-may-have-used-kavkaz-2020-exercises-part-prepare; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/warning-kremlin-deploys-brigade-sized-force-belarus-near-polish-border

[16] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-multiple-russian-military-exercises-occurring-western-military; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-kremlin-will-likely-use-october-military-exercises-advance-its; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-russia-deploys-third-battalion-tactical-group-belarus; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/warning-kremlin-deploys-brigade-sized-force-belarus-near-polish-border

[17] https://iz dot ru/1115704/roman-kretcul-aleksei-ramm/armeiskaia-druzhba-rossiia-i-belorussiia-provedut-rekordnoe-chislo-uchenii

[18] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-russia-likely-began-preparing-logistics-supply-lines-belarus

[19] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-upcoming-csto-exercise-could-support-russian-military-deployment

 

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Belarus Warning Update: Belarus Confirms Plans to Purchase Advanced Air Defense Systems from Russia

January 14, 2021 2:30 EDT

By George Barros

The Kremlin will likely employ Russian S-400 advanced air defense systems in Belarus as ISW forecasted. The commander of Belarus’ Air Force and Air Defense Forces announced on January 14, 2020, that the Belarusian Defense Ministry (MoD) is conducting pre-contract work to equip Belarus’ anti-aircraft missile divisions that currently operate the S-300 system with S-400 and Pantsir-S systems.[1] ISW first warned of this threat in August 2020, after the MoD reportedly signed a contract for cooperation on air defense systems with the holding company for the manufacturers of the Russian S-300, S-400, and S-500 air defense systems.[2]

Belarus’ acquisition of S-400 systems poses a significant threat to US national security. The Kremlin likely seeks to integrate Belarus’ currently independent air defense systems into Russia’s own national air defense system, which would give Moscow control over their employment.[3] The Kremlin likely seeks to deploy new and control existing anti-access/area denial weapon systems in Belarus to contest NATO and Eastern European airspace more than it already does with systems deployed in Kaliningrad.[4] Such integration would degrade NATO’s ability to defend the Baltics—a risk ISW forecasted in September 2020.[5]

The Kremlin will likely use the upcoming Zapad 2021 exercise in September 2021 to further consolidate Russian control over Belarus’ anti-access/area denial systems. Russia’s next annual capstone strategic readiness exercise—Zapad 2021—will likely emphasize Russian-Belarusian air defense integration. Belarusian air and air defense forces conducted joint training emphasizing using “new and modernized weapons” to defend against precision weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles on January 14.[6] The MoD explicitly said the experience gained from this January 14 training will be used in joint exercises with Russian units during Zapad 2021.[7] Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) will likely conduct Zapad 2021 in western Russia and Belarus.[8] ISW warned in December 2020 that the Kremlin would likely use the Zapad 2021 exercise to further integrate Russian and Belarusian military units at deep levels.[9]

The Kremlin may field S-400 systems in Belarus before September 2021. The MoD’s confirmation of “new and modernized” air defense systems’ role in Zapad 2021 coincided with its confirmation of plans to purchase Russian S-400 systems. This coincidence may indicate that Moscow seeks to equip Belarusian air defense units with S-400 systems before September 2021 so Belarusian and Russian air defense units—both equipped with S-400 systems—can participate in an integrated fashion during Zapad 2021.

Russian security personnel in unmarked uniforms are reportedly operating in Belarus. A Belarussian protester claimed unmarked Russian personnel detained and beat him in Minsk on December 20, 2020.[10] The protester claimed that during his detention an unmarked Russian security agent said, “I came here from Moscow to help,” and, “Pray that Belarusian riot police detain you, and not us. Because we will simply kill you.”[11]

This testimony follows a series of indicators of Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) preparations to operate in Belarus. Unmarked Rosgvardia trucks reportedly were spotted in Smolensk heading toward the Belarusian Border on August 16, 2020.[12] Security personnel wearing unmarked uniforms appeared in Minsk for the first time on September 5, 2020.[13] Elements of two Rosgvardia units deployed to Minsk on September 28–October 3, 2020, for a small arms military sports tournament that was effectively a series of tactical exercises with Belarusian special forces.[14] Rosgvardia and the Belarusian Interior Ministry ratified a cooperation agreement on November 19, 2020, permitting Rosgvardia personnel to operate in Belarus.[15] The Kremlin already may have deployed Rosgvardia personnel to Belarus to augment Belarusian security forces, which are operating at reduced strength following a steady trickle of personnel resignations since the crisis began in August 2020.[16]

ISW will continue monitoring the situation and providing updates.

 


[1] https://www.belta dot by/society/view/armija-vypolnit-ljubuju-zadachu-dlja-sohranenija-territorialnoj-tselostnosti-strany-golub-424021-2021/; https://www.interfax dot ru/world/745186; https://russian.rt dot com/ussr/news/822235-belorussiya-kompleksy-s-400; https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/10461405

[2] https://www.iswresearch.org/2020/08/warning-lukashenkos-security-forces.html; http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-and-kremlin-vie-control-over-future-russian-weapons

[3] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-and-kremlin-vie-control-over-future-russian-weapons

[4] https://www.iswresearch.org/2020/08/warning-lukashenkos-security-forces.html

[5] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-lukashenko-and-kremlin-vie-control-over-future-russian-weapons

[6]  https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109473/

[7]  https://www.mil dot by/ru/news/109473/

[8] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-will-increase-pressure-lukashenko-integrate-belarus-2021

[9] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-will-increase-pressure-lukashenko-integrate-belarus-2021

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO-NDgfixpo

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO-NDgfixpo

[12] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-russia-and-belarus-launch-military-exercises

[13] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-security-personnel-green-uniforms-without-insignia-appear-minsk

[14] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/belarus-warning-update-putin-likely-disrupts-lukashenko%E2%80%99s-plan-defusing-protests

[15] An official Belarusian legal portal did not publish this document until December 18, 2020. https://pravo dot by/document/?guid=12551&p0=I02000029&p1=1&p5=0

[16] https://t dot me/By_Pol/146; https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/14/lukashenko-belarus-by-pol-security-forces-protests/; https://isans.org/analysis-en/policy-papers-en/the-situation-in-law-enforcement-agencies-of-belarus.html; https://www.rferl.org/a/exiled-defectors-belarus-police-holding-ex-colleagues-to-account/30976835.html