According to the AFU General Staff, the threat of an offensive from Belarus persists. But we are getting more and more evidence that the Belarusians do not want to participate in the war against Ukraine. Today, May 26, the Ministry of Defence reported that a Belarusian soldier had voluntarily left his military unit.
The Ministry of Defence has already started searching for the runaway soldier. According to the Ministry, the young man has gone in the direction of the Lithuanian border. It is not yet known whether he left by car or on foot. The State Border Committee has already notified Lithuanian border guards about the escape from the army. The fact of desertion is being investigated now.
It is the first known case of escape from the Belarusian army since the beginning of the war. For soldiers, running away is a way of protesting against the decisions of their commander. It is no secret that Russians now occupy leading positions in many military units, as the Belarusians have refused to carry out orders to attack Ukraine. Whereas earlier Belarusian commanders could still defend junior officers, now Russian commanders are ready to throw them into a bloody fight against Ukrainian soldiers. It is confirmed by the tender for the purchase of 20 thousand tokens with the logo of the Belarusian Armed Forces, announced on May 23. It is already a direct hint that 20 thousand Belarusians will go to fight in Ukraine.
The Lithuanian government has already announced that it is ready to receive refugees from Belarus who do not want to fight in Ukraine.
That is why, since March, the number of applications for political asylum has been increasing. Since the beginning of the year, at least 59 Belarusians have applied to the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs asking for protection from repression. Even before the events of 2020, Lithuania granted protection to a soldier from Belarus who refused to follow the orders of the regime. In our review of escapes from the Belarusian army, we told his story – 22-year-old Stepan Zakharchenko left his military unit on July 27, 2011, unwilling to open fire on Belarusians who came out to protest against Lukashenko. After that, Stepan and two other soldiers who did not sign the order began to receive threats. So Stepan decided to flee to Lithuania, where he received a five-year residence permit.
Today’s action of the Belarusian soldier confirms: Belarusians do not want to be pawns in the bloody hands of Putin and Lukashenko. Even if there are no mass protests in the streets, it does not mean that Belarusians have surrendered and do not fight. After all, even the jail term for escape did not stop the escaped officer. Unauthorized abandonment of the unit for up to one month is punished with imprisonment for up to three years. Abandonment for more than a month is punished with imprisonment for up to five years. If a soldier ran away from his unit during wartime, the crime is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison.
We very much hope that the escaped soldier’s story will end happily and he will manage to get to Lithuania rather than become cannon fodder to be sent to Ukraine.