Belarus’ direct participation in war remains unlikely, mobilization sparks racism and xenophobia in Russia – ISW

19 October 2022, 12:16 PM
Ukrainian serviceman on training near the border with Belarus, autumn 2022 (Photo:REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

Ukrainian serviceman on training near the border with Belarus, autumn 2022 (Photo:REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

Although Belarus continues to allow Russia to use its territory and airspace to attack Ukraine, Minsk’s direct involvement in the war on Russia’s side remains highly unlikely, the Oct. 18 summary by U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reads.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported on Oct. 18 that Belarus continues to allow Russia to use Belarusian military infrastructure and airspace to launch missile, air, and Shahed-136 drone attacks on Ukraine.

Geolocated social media footage shows Russian military hardware moving through Belarus by rail, which is consistent with ISW’s previous assessments that Belarus will continue to engage in the war as a co-belligerent, although without Belarusian forces directly participating in combat operations.

Video of day

“The Russian Armed Forces are almost certainly too degraded to reopen a northern front against Ukraine from Belarusian territory in the coming months,” ISW experts wrote.

They believe the Belarusian Armed Forces are conducting covert mobilization under the guise of training sessions, although mobilization in Belarus is likely an attempt by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to demonstrate his support to Putin rather than a tangible indicator of Belarusian military involvement in Ukraine.

Russian troops conducted a limited ground attack in northern Kharkiv Oblast on Oct. 18. According to ISW’s analysts, this suggests that Russian forces may retain territorial aspirations in Kharkiv Oblast despite massive losses during recent Ukrainian counteroffensives. “The nature of this limited incursion is unclear, but it may suggest that Russian troops are continuing offensive operations near the border.

Considering the current, constantly degrading state of Russian offensive capabilities in Ukraine, Russian troops are very unlikely to make any gains in this area,” the ISW’s experts said.

ISW also continues to observe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unequal implementation of partial mobilization is causing social fractures that are driving the Russian information space to further marginalize ethnic minority communities.

The Oct. 15 shooting at a Belgorod Oblast training ground was likely a natural consequence of the Kremlin’s continued policy of using poor and minority communities to bear the brunt of force generation efforts, while protecting ethnic Russians and wealthier Russian citizens. The Russian information space has largely responded with virulently xenophobic rhetoric against Central Asian migrants and other peripheral social groups.

“A Just Russia” Party Chairperson Sergey Mironov posted a long, xenophobic critique of Russia’s migration policy on Oct. 18, claiming that mobilization exposed systemic fractures within the Russian immigration system. Mironov blamed military commissars for “allowing people who pose a threat to Russian security into the Russian Armed Forces” and accused military commissariats of keeping their doors wide open for individuals from Central Asia.

Mironov also proposed a moratorium on granting Russian citizenship to citizens of Tajikistan.

“Mironov’s calls for immigration reform demonstrate the role that partial mobilization has seemingly played in catalyzing ethnic divisions, racism, and xenophobia in the Russian domestic space, especially against ethnic minorities,” the ISW’s experts said.

The ISW also mentions in its summary that current and former U.S. officials confirmed to the New York Times on Oct. 18 that members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are in Russian-occupied Crimea to train Russian forces on how to use the Iranian drones they purchased, “thereby enabling likely Russian war crimes.”

ISW assessed on Oct. 12 that any Iranian personnel in Ukraine were likely IRGC drone trainers. The NYT, however, said it remains unclear whether Iranian trainers are flying the drones themselves, or merely teaching Russian forces how to do so.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continued to target critical Ukrainian civilian infrastructure with air, missile, and drone strikes, attempting to demoralize the Ukrainian people, which is unlikely to succeed.
  • Russian sources stated that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations across the entire frontline in Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian ground lines of communication and ammunition depots in central Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks near Bakhmut and Avdiyivka.
  • Russian authorities are struggling to cope with their reduced logistics capacity through Crimea following the attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge.
  • Russian occupation authorities kidnapped Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) personnel, likely to strengthen physical control over the ZNPP’s operations.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed that mobilization ended on Oct. 17 in Moscow Oblast, and Russian civilians continue to express their dissatisfaction with Russian mobilization.
  • Russian occupation officials are attempting to incentivize Ukrainian citizens under Russian control in northern Kherson Oblast to flee to Russia as Ukrainian forces advance, and occupation authorities may increasingly force Ukrainian civilians to relocate further behind the frontlines or to Russia in the coming days.
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Map of combat operations: the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kherson region and in the north-east of Ukraine, battles in the Donbas

Photo: ISW
Photo: ISW
Photo: ISW
Photo: ISW

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