Ukrainian forces are preparing for a possible attack on the Belarusian border | Ukraine

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Ukrainian forces have built a new line of defense along the country’s previously unfortified northern border, with Belarus amid signs of another attack.

Russian forces invaded Ukraine through the Belarusian border in February when they tried to capture the capital, kyiv.

On May 10, Belarusian army chief Viktor Gulevich announced the deployment of Belarusian special forces and equipment in response to what he described as a “southern threat” from Ukraine and the EU. NATO. Belarus has been conducting military exercises on its border with Ukraine since early May.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been Russia’s closest ally in its war in Ukraine. On Tuesday, Lukashenko urged the Russian-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which met in Moscow, to remain united on Ukraine and accused the West of prolonging the conflict.

The Guardian was granted access to Ukraine’s border positions on the condition that it not disclose the exact locations or surnames of Ukrainians on duty.

In the forests along the Belarusian border, a Ukrainian territorial defense unit made up of fighters aged between 19 and 60, occupies a network of trenches and positions built since the February invasion.

Prior to February, much of the Ukraine-Belarus border consisted of small, kiosk-like checkpoints that Russian tanks passed easily. Two days after the invasion, Ukraine closed all its border crossing points with Belarus and Russia.

In its analysis of the Belarusian threat, the British Ministry of Defense said last week that the presence of Belarusian forces on the border would likely prevent Ukraine from deploying support operations on its Donbass front.

Military Vitaliy in a trench north of the Zhytomyr region. Photography: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/The Guardian

Armed with AK47s and a few dozen men per position, the fighters hope that the Belarusian border will no longer be used by invading forces.

“We’re going to be in the pan,” joked Vova, a man who volunteered to fight in the Donbass in 2014 and was in the Soviet army. Vova pledged to fight alongside her brother, Ihor, and her brother’s son, Maksym, on the second day of the war.

“They took the first 500 men in line that day, but there were more than 800 of us,” said Ihor, sitting between his brother and son in the makeshift barracks near the border.

“I have high blood pressure, he has high blood pressure, he’s on insulin,” Ihor said, pointing to middle-aged and retired-age men. “And then the other part of the unit is younger guys like Maksym.”

The older members of the Territorial Defense rest in the forest near the combat position.
The older members of the Territorial Defense rest in the forest near the combat position. Photography: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/The Guardian

Ihor and Maksym were working on a construction site in kyiv the morning of the invasion. They rushed to the Zhytomyr region, where their family lives, to register. Territorial defense units in Ukraine are made up of people who fight in the same area where they live.

The men and some women in the unit said some of them had known each other since before the war. In almost all other cases, there are only a few degrees of separation.

“In some cases it was like, ‘Oh, your grandma knows my grandpa, maybe we’re brothers,'” said Ihor, who added that fighting between people in his own area had given him a great sense of duty and motivation. Sign up for First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

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The unit said it had no support from heavy artillery units, but was fortunate to have the local geography on its side. The kilometer-long narrow roads descending from the border are surrounded by thick forests that cover the deep, swampy ground.

“Nobody ever managed to hold this territory for this reason,” said Ihor, the unit’s military press officer, speaking of the battles around the northern border during World War II.


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