KIEV There are many kinds of rooms in the corridors of the industrial building. Ammunition is stored in some, others are used for sleeping.
This building on the outskirts of Kiev is the headquarters of the Kastuś Kalinoŭski regiment, the Belorussian Empire.
In the yard, the soldiers who have recently joined the unit practice advancing in terrain.
When the Russian offensive began a year ago, many Belarusians wanted to join the defense of Ukraine.
There were so many of them that the Belarusians founded their own regiment. The goal is to beat the Russians in Ukraine and then free Belarus from the autocratic president.
– If Russia succeeded in occupying Ukraine, the liberation of Belarus would no longer be possible. That’s why we fight alongside the Ukrainians, says the unit’s commander Denis ‘Kit’ Prokhorov.
Hundreds of Belarusian fighters
Prokhorov came to Ukraine already in 2014, when Russia started a hybrid war against Ukraine in eastern Ukraine. He was only 19 years old.
When the Russian offensive began in February of last year, he wanted to participate in the defense of Ukraine.
There were so many Belarusian volunteers that they were able to form their own regiment.
– There are more than three hundred of us. I would say hundreds, but not thousands. I don’t want to say more about that, says Prohorov.
The unit is named after a Belarusian revolutionary. At the end of the 19th century Kastuś Kalinoŭski was involved in organizing an unsuccessful uprising against the Russian occupiers in Belarus.
Most of the soldiers in the unit do not want their faces in public. It would endanger the safety of their relatives in Belarus.
Prokhorov says that the danger is real. In Belarus, relatives have been arrested and they have lost their jobs.
– The Belarusian KGB also tried to infiltrate our unit.
Involved in the toughest battles
Soldiers of the regiment participate alongside the Ukrainians in the toughest battles. Now the main part of the troops is in Bahmut.
We will come to Kyiv to train and rest. Now there are also new arrivals at the base who are practicing fighting skills. One of them has come from Alaska.
– I lived a comfortable life in Alaska, but my former homeland called, the man says.
A 22-year-old on the sidelines Oskar follow the action. He doesn’t need to practice martial arts.
He has just received the medal of bravery of the military intelligence of Ukraine.
– I have been at the front a lot. Among other things, I was with foreign fighters because I know English. I got the medal for these operations, Oskar says without revealing too much.
The soldiers are united by the dream of a democratic Belarus. Most have fled Lukashenko’s terror.
Oskar took part in large protests in 2020. Like many protesters, he fled to Ukraine when the Belarusian authorities started arresting activists.
– I am eternally grateful that I can live freely in Ukraine. My duty is to defend my other country. After this we can try to liberate Belarus Alexander Lukashenko of dictatorship.
Lukashenko kills to stay in power
There are many in Kastuś Kalinoŭski’s regiment who have left Belarus only after the start of the Russian offensive in February of last year. The unit has a recruitment office in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.
According to Prohorov, new members join the unit all the time. Many left Belarus because Alexander Lukashenko is Russia’s main ally in the war of aggression.
The base has nothing positive to say about Lukashenko. According to Prokhorov, Lukashenka’s administration is holding Belarus hostage in cooperation with Russia.
– Lukashenko cannot live without power. He kills people to stay in power. He has been doing that since the 1990s. The year 2020 showed everyone what kind of tyrant he is, says Prokhorov.
The goal is a democratic Belarus
Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994. His official title is president, but democratic elections are not held in the country.
There have been several peaceful protest movements in Belarus, but they have not succeeded in overthrowing Lukashenka.
Prokhorov does not want to specify what his vision is for the liberation of Belarus.
– We are now gathering experience on how we can defend ourselves militarily. It is important. The goal is a democratic Belarus.
The languages of Ukraine and Belarus are close. The regions belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before Russia became a great power.
– When I went to school, I was taught that Russians are our brothers. In Ukraine, I have understood that Ukrainians are our brothers, not Russians. We are trying to nurture this connection, says Prokhorov.
The operation of the regiment runs largely on donations, even though it operates under the Ukrainian Defense Forces.
According to Prokhorov, the Belarusian diaspora in particular has generously supported the activity.
You can discuss the topic on 15.3. until 23:00.