Ukraine Project

Belarus Warning Update: The Kremlin Will Likely Use October Military Exercises to Advance its Hybrid War in Belarus

5:00 EDT: The Kremlin is orienting its Unbreakable Brotherhood 2020 military exercises on peacekeeping operations as part of its hybrid war in Belarus. The Kremlin-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) stated on October 7 that approximately 700 CSTO personnel will participate in annual Unbreakable Brotherhood exercises in Vitebsk, Belarus, from October 12-16. The CSTO stated the exercise is intended to enhance the CSTO’s capability to conduct multinational peacekeeping operations by practicing monitoring ceasefire compliance, restoring “peaceful life,” maintaining checkpoint security, and riot control. The Russian military considers deploying conventional forces under the cover of “peacekeeping” to be a key means within hybrid war. The Kremlin considers its ongoing campaign in Belarus to be a hybrid war and is likely using CSTO exercises to advance its campaign.

Belarus Warning Update: Protests in Kyrgyzstan May Fuel Intensified Kremlin Action in Belarus

4:50 pm EDT: Self-proclaimed President Alexander Lukashenko revealed that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Kyrgyzstan in an October 7 phone call. Lukashenko offered no additional details, leaving his purpose in mentioning the conversation unclear. Putin did not provide a readout from this call as of this writing, potentially indicating Putin may not have wanted this phone call to be publicly known. The Kremlin usually promptly publishes readouts from such meetings.

Belarus Warning Update: Putin Seeks Belarus’ Integration with Russia via Belarusian Constitutional Amendments

4:20 pm EDT: Self-declared Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko is adopting tactics for passing constitutional amendments similar to those that Russian President Vladimir Putin used to pass Russian constitutional amendments in early 2020. The Lukashenko regime began soliciting constitutional amendment proposals from Belarusian citizens on October 3 with a deadline to submit all proposals by October 25. Lukashenko likely seeks to create the impression among Belarusian citizens that they possess political agency. Lukashenko, however, likely has predetermined which constitutional amendments to adopt.

Belarus Warning Update: Russia Likely Began Preparing Logistics Supply Lines to Belarus

4:00 pm EDT: Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) is intensifying efforts likely intended to establish the logistical infrastructure necessary to sustain a near-continuous Russian conventional military presence in Belarus. ISW assesses recent WMD exercises are preparations for the upcoming Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Unbreakable Brotherhood command-staff exercises planned for October 12-16 at the Losvido training ground in Vitebsk, Belarus.

Belarus Warning Update: Russia’s Western Military District Prepares for October Exercises in Belarus

5:45pm EDT: Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) continues to conduct command and control exercises—activities necessary for a sustained Russian deployment to Belarus. Brigade-sized (3,500 personnel) elements—including tank, motorized rifle, artillery, army aviation, and reconnaissance units—of the Moscow-based First Tank Army began exercises emphasizing unit cohesion and command and control effectiveness at the Mulino training ground in Nizhny Novgorod on September 28. An unspecified sub-battalion-sized (200 personnel) element of the First Tank Army conducted exercises to defend a command post’s communication systems against sabotage on September 29. Unspecified combat crews practiced organizing command and control systems, logistics, occupying and concealing positions, and air defense on September 29. Rocket artillery and other fire elements conducted live fire exercises with UAV support on September 30 and October 2. These exercises at Mulino will continue until October 4.

Belarus Warning Update: All Russian Slavic Brotherhood Participants Return to Russia

5:15 pm EDT: The two remaining Russian battalion tactical groups (BTG) that participated in Slavic Brotherhood exercises in Belarus departed to their home garrisons in Russia on September 29. The Russian Ministry of Defense provided visual evidence that the BTGs of the Pskov-based 76th and Tula-based 106th Airborne Assault Divisions departed Belarus via rail on September 29. The BTG of the 76th arrived in Brest on September 15 and the BTG of the 106th arrived in Grodno on September 21. The BTG of the Ivanovo-based 98th Airborne Assault Division left Belarus on September 25—the same day Slavic Brotherhood exercises ended.

Belarus Warning Update: The Kremlin is Planning an October Multinational Command Staff Exercise in Belarus

5:15 pm EDT: The Kremlin will conduct multinational military exercises through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Belarus on October 12-16. An unspecified number of Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik forces will conduct the CSTO’s annual “Unbreakable Brotherhood” exercises at the Losvido training ground in Vitebsk, Belarus, on October 12-16.

Belarus Warning Update: Belarusian Protest Movement Likely Developing Local Organization

5:00 pm EDT: Belarusians marched in Minsk for the eighth straight Sunday on September 27, despite a lack of clear directions from prominent opposition leaders. Telegram channel NEXTA called for a “peoples inauguration” of opposition leader Svetlana Tikanouskaya in response to self-proclaimed Belarusian President Lukashenko’s secret inauguration ceremony on September 23. Tikanouskaya congratulated Belarusians on the 50th consecutive day of protests on September 27 without mentioning an inauguration. NEXTA’s calls did not result in any special protester action. Tikanouskaya likely intends to maintain influence with the ongoing NEXTA-led protest movement without tying herself to specific actions outside her control. Control of the Belarusian opposition remains split between NEXTA’s focus on active protests and Tikanouskaya’s promotion of international diplomatic efforts, undermining the focus of the protest movement.

Belarus Warning Update: The Kremlin May Have Used Kavkaz 2020 Exercises in Part to Prepare for a Conventional Russian Military Deployment to Belarus

6:25 pm EDT - The Kremlin may have used its annual joint strategic command exercise in the Southern Military District in part to prepare for a deployment of elements of Russia’s Voronezh-based 20th Combined Arms Army (CAA) to Belarus. Regiment-sized motor rifle elements of Belarus’ Zaslonovo-based 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade and unspecified elements of the 20th CAA conducted joint combat exercises as part of the Kavkaz 2020 exercises in Kapustin Yar, Astrakhan, on September 25. Zaslonovo is located about 75 miles from Belarus’ eastern border with Russia. There is no indication of which 20th CAA units interoperated with the Belarusian elements, though they were likely tank or motorized rifle units, given the 20th CAA’s composition, the nature of the exercises in Kapustin Yar, and the Belarusian elements’ motorized rifle designation.