By Chris King •
Updated: 01 Apr 2023 • 3:29
Fighters from Belarus' Kastus Kalinovsky Regiment.
According to a soldier of the 20th Army of the Western Military District, about a month ago, the Russian military destroyed a group of French mercenaries that had been fighting on the side of the Ukrainian army. The incident occurred in the Kremennaya area in the Donbas, reported RIA Novosti.
The Russian soldier claimed: “Mostly trained mercenaries are sent here, but we always rebuff them. It was about a month ago – our unit encountered them, but we defeated them. Parts of the group managed to escape, they ran away. We have done our job”.
He said there were several Ukrainian soldiers in the unit, but insisted that the majority were French. “It was a French legion, most of the people in this group were French”. In the Kremennaya area, foreigners act as instructors and also participate directly in the actions of assault and sabotage groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
A Newsweek correspondent also discovered the deaths of almost 40 mercenaries from Belarus who were fighting for Ukraine at the time. He spoke to several members of the International Legion – members of the Kastus Kalinouski Regiment from Belarus – at an exhibition dedicated to the revolutionary and poet Kalinouski that was held in the city of Lviv.
They explained that Belarusians who joined the International Legion left the country after the 2020 presidential election. “The Lukashenko regime is afraid of what we can do when a political crisis arises in the country. Now we have more experience in real combat than most Belarusian officers”, Oskar, a member of the Belarusian Volat unit, told Newsweek.
Oskar also said that he participated as a volunteer observer in the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020. He noted that he was counting the number of voters: “so that officials did not add falsified ballots for Lukashenko”.
According to Oskar, his actions had no effect on the outcome of the election. On the last day of voting, unidentified people in civilian clothes detained him and took him to the police station, where he spent several days. After that, he joined the protesters. When he was called to the police station as a witness, he left the country. “I have already lost one homeland, and if I do nothing, I will lose another”, Oscar emphasised.
A fighter named Denis adhered to the same position: “After the victory of Ukraine, Lukashenko must be held accountable. He did not just repress his own people, he allowed the Russian military to use his territory as a springboard for an offensive in the direction of Kyiv”. Denis also said that he participated in the battles in Bakhmut, and it was “one of the two worst things I have ever seen”.
Newsweek also talked to a fighter with the call sign Dasha – “a tall, broad-shouldered young woman”. Dasha is a grenade launcher. “In Belarus, there is the death penalty for those who fight for Ukraine. Usually they do not execute women, but in my case, they would probably make an exception”, she admitted.
The news outlet also talked to Alexei Frantskevich, one of the organisers of the exhibition, and the head of the Belarusian Crisis Centre in Lviv. According to him, the exhibition will soon go on tour to Warsaw, Vilnius, and Prague.
“It is important for Ukrainians and Europeans to understand that an increasing number of Belarusians are risking their lives in defence of democratic values in order to protect the security of Europe itself. Belarusians have been fighting against Russian aggression in Ukraine since 2014.
Mikhail Zhiznevsky, a citizen of Belarus, was one of the first protesters killed during the Maidan. Many died for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Donbas over the next eight years”, he pointed out.
The magazine correspondent noted that there are no official data on the number of Belarusians who died during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Now they know of at least 37 dead Belarusians from the units of the International Legion he explained, as reported by gazeta.ru.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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