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A Belarusian commander in the Kastus Kalinouski Regiment told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview Friday that he believes it is just a “matter of time” before he is forced to fight against his own nation in Russia’s deadly war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian leaders have warned Belarus against entering the war in support of Russia, but comments made by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko suggest Minsk may be preparing to create another battlefront Kyiv will have to grapple with.
“Aggression against Ukraine is now being carried out from the territory of Belarus,” the commander detailed to Fox News Digital in an interview translated with the help from the Ukraine Frontline Media Platform. “It’s a big regional threat right now, because Lukashenko remains quasi-independent – primarily tactically advantageous for Russia. They want to use him for further escalation in the region.
“The issue of Belarus entering the war by ground troops is only a matter of time, and it could happen soon,” he warned.
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The threat of the unknown is nothing new for this Belarusian commander who has risked his life in Ukraine for nearly a decade to repel aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Now serving as a brigade commander training troops outside of Kyiv, he goes by the pseudonym-turned-call sign “Igor,” which was given to him after he first volunteered to fight in Ukraine over eight years ago.
“In 2014 I had a meeting with a political-military representative in Ukraine, and we didn’t want to let everyone know who we were,” he said in reference to a fellow soldier of his who took the meeting with him. “I discussed this with my friend and made a decision that he would call me ‘Igor’ and I’d also use another name for him.”
The pseudonym stuck, he explained with a chuckle.
In 2014, Igor voluntarily crossed into Ukraine to join up with its armed forces after Putin invaded under the guise of supporting then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who in November 2013 sparked mass protests after he rejected a plan that would further integrate Ukraine with the European Union.
Yanukovych attempted to violently suppress the public outcry before he was ousted.
In a move that echoed steps Putin would take in Belarus just seven years later following what Western officials have decried as a botched election when Lukashenko again assumed the presidency, Russia entered Ukraine in February 2014 in an attempt to secure its regional influence.
By March of that year, Putin had annexed Crimea and fighting in the Donbas has since continued.
But Igor said he saw the writing on the wall and knew this would become a bigger problem if Ukraine’s sovereignty wasn’t respected.
“I realized that global changes in our region were beginning, and I realized that the question of freedom for Ukraine and Belarus is the question of fighting against the Putin and Lukashenko regimes,” he said, adding he had assumed the all-out war the world is now watching would have begun in 2014 but said Moscow’s waiting game gave them “an opportunity to prepare.”
Igor said he believes that just 20 percent of Belarusians support Lukashenko and his allegiance to Putin and that only three percent support the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
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But Lukashenko’s apparent increasing willingness to enter the war means Igor, and the hundreds of other Belarusian fighters who have volunteered on the front lines, could be squaring off with their own countrymen.
Late last month, Belarus reportedly made moves to expand its military conscription and began distributing summons to men and women for “mobilization exercises” in the Gomel region which shares a border with Ukraine – where a series of trainings began earlier this week.
Igor has taken a hard line when it comes to facing his countrymen on the battlefield and said, “Maybe on the passport they are Belarusians but in fact they are full of pro-Russian and pro-imperial mentality.”
“Any soldier can refuse to enter Ukraine under various causes, but those who will obey orders of Putin and Lukashenko – we will consider as enemies, and we will not have any sentiments in their direction,” he added.
Concerns have mounted over how Ukraine will be able to grapple with not only the addition of a northern front but with the possibility that Russia could gain an edge as more boots on the ground enter the fray.
“Surely for Ukraine, it will be more difficult and this will divert some of the forces from the frontline in the east and south,” Igor said. “But I’m sure that victory will be ours and we’ll deal with it.”
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The brigade commander said the decision to enter the war would be a colossal mistake for the controversial Belarusian president.
“Order on the ground operation in Ukraine,” he warned “and it’ll be one of the last Lukashenko orders.”