“It is our war because we have a motto in the regiment: we liberate Belarus through the liberation of Ukraine.”
These are the words of Vadim Kabanchuk, a Belarusian fighting for Kyiv in the Ukraine war.
Kabanchuk believes only by defeating Russia in Ukraine will Belarus free itself of long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko, a key ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, won a disputed presidential election in 2020, sparking protests.
“We have one enemy: Putin’s regime and his puppet Lukashenka,” said Kabanchuk. “Of course, we would not want to fight with our own countrymen [Belarusians], but if they started entering Ukraine, we would meet them first, and we would ask the Ukrainian leadership for this.
“We want this because we hope that most of them will join us. This will be the end of Lukashenka’s regime. We will then go with them to the territory of Belarus and we will also remove the regime, and finally, we will free the Belarusian people from the dictatorship.”
Kabanchuk fights in a special regiment that was established for Belarusians in Poland, named after the 19th-century revolutionary, Kastus Kalinouski.
It was established shortly after Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine in February this year.
Andrei Sannikov, from the European Belarus campaign, claims the majority of Belarusians support Ukrainians and their fight against Russian invaders.
“It is extremely important for us to fight for Ukrainians because they are leading this fight – the second wave of the liberation of Europe,” he said.
“I think this time we simply cannot afford ourselves to lose and by ‘ourselves’ I mean Ukrainians as well as Belarusians.”