Vladimir Putin’s loyal ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (left) [File: Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/Kremlin via Reuters]
In an official statement, opposition representatives remarked that the incident was one of the “biggest successful diversions” since the war’s start, and Belarusian anti-war partisans assert that they have seriously damaged a Russian military aircraft.
The Belarusian opposition group BYPOL claimed to have deployed drones to attack the Machulishchy airstrip, 12 kilometres from Minsk, badly damaging a Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft (AWAC).
One of the nine Awacs of the Russian aerospace forces, valued at $330 million, was destroyed, according to the group. In this operation, Belarusians are taking part. They are currently safely outside the country after achieving “victory.” Everyone has gotten away.
It went on to say that the plane “absolutely won’t fly anyplace.”
According to some sources, two drones dropped weapons, striking the aircraft. Near the cockpit, a second missile reportedly struck. “The front and middle sections of the aircraft, as well as avionics and a radar antenna, were damaged,” added a report on the incident.
Despite reports of explosions on Sunday at the airstrip from both Russian and Belarusian military bloggers, the damage to the aircraft has not been independently confirmed. “Damage to a Russian military transport plane” was also confirmed by one.
The adviser to the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Tsihanouskaya, Franak Viaorka, said that this has been the most efficient deflection since the outset of 2022. “The operation was carried out by two Belarusians. They have already fled the country and are currently safe after using drones for this mission.
A spokesperson for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, declined to answer inquiries about the attack on Monday. He told journalists on Monday, “We don’t have anything to say about this.”
Built on the airframe of an Ilyushin transport plane, the Beriev A50 is an example of obsolete technology. Although it only started operations in the middle of the 1980s, it is still an important piece of military equipment.
With about 40 of the planes developed, nine of which are supposedly still in service, Russia can target air defenses by determining when and where air defense systems are activated. These so-called airborne early warning and control aircraft are employed to monitor the battlefield and assist in battlefield management, as well as to identify aircraft, ships, missiles, and other approaching projectiles at a distance.
The fact that the airbase has been housing at least one MIG-31 interceptor, which is equipped with a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile and whose launches have been responsible for several recent air alarms in Ukraine, is worrisome for Moscow.
Drones have historically been employed by opposition factions in Belarus to attack government objectives. The Black Stork organization began using drones to dump explosive devices against government facilities, including riot police headquarters, as early as 2021. Since the protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020, cyber-partisans in Belarus have been opposing the government as well. Organizational members revealed that they had infiltrated the Belarusian railways to impede Russia’s military buildup close to Ukraine.
The Cybrarian member told the Guardian, “We don’t want Russian forces in Belarus because it affects the country’s sovereignty and puts it in danger of occupation.” Moreover, Belarus is pulled into a conflict with Ukraine. Also, Belarusian soldiers will probably be required to fight in it and lose their lives for it.
Lukashenko revealed on Monday that Russia has sent additional armaments, notably the S-400 air defence missile system and the Iskander short-range ballistic missile system, to the country.
Without providing any further information, he claimed that the Iskander missile system was deployed with the “minimum stock of missiles.” As of the end of last year, Belarus initially claimed that it had “independent” control over Iskander missile systems that could hit targets in Poland or Ukraine.
Furthermore, an S-400 long-range air defence missile system was delivered. You, the military, asked for this, and you got it. According to statements made by Lukashenko and published by state-run media, the missile is stated to be a very lethal weapon.