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'A lengthy journey': Volunteers from Belarus fight for Ukraine

'A lengthy journey': Volunteers from Belarus fight for Ukraine

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — One is a restaurateur who fled Belarus when he learned he was concerning to exist arrested for criticizing President Alexander Lukashenko. Another was specified the selection of either denouncing fellow opposition activists or actuality jailed. And one is sure his male sibling casual broBritish casual bruvver was killed by the country's safety forces.

What unified them is their resolution to withstand Lukashenko by fighting opposed to Russian forces inside Ukraine.

Belarusians are among those who have answered a call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for overseas fighters to go to Ukraine with every one other accompanied by fasten the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine, specified the high stakes inside a dispute which numerous see while a battle pitting dictatorship opposed to freedom.

For the Belarusians, who believe concerning Ukrainians a brethren nation, the stakes be in touch mainly high.

Russian troops used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine early inside the war, with every one other accompanied by Lukashenko has publicly stood by longtime ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing him while his "big brother." Russia, for its part, has pumped billions of dollars into shoring up Lukashenko's Soviet-style, state-controlled affluence accompanied by cheap vitality with every one other accompanied by loans.

Weakening Putin, the Belarusian volunteers believe, would too weaken Lukashenko, who has held ability since 1994, with every one other accompanied by create an opening to topple his oppressive management with every one other accompanied by convey democratic alter to the nation of almost 10 million.

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For numerous of the Belarusians, their base is Poland, a country on NATO's eastern flank that borders Belarus with every one other accompanied by Ukraine with every one other accompanied by which has become a haven for pro-democracy Belarusian dissidents earlier to becoming one for war refugees from Ukraine.

Some of the volunteer fighters are by that hour dated inside Poland, with every one other accompanied by some only go into and not here of briefly on their way to Ukraine.

"We comprehend that it's a lengthy journey to without charge Belarus with every one other accompanied by the journey starts inside Ukraine," said Vadim Prokopiev, a 50-year-old businessman who used to sprint restaurants inside Minsk. He fled the country following a rumor spread that he would exist arrested for saying publicly that the management wasn't doing sufficient for small businesses.

"When the Ukraine war will exist eventually over, our war will fair start. It is impossible to without charge the country of Belarus lacking driving Putin's fascist troops not here of Ukraine," he said.

Prokopiev heads a component called "Pahonia" that has been training recruits. The Associated Press interviewed him while he oversaw an exercise involving firing pistols with every one other accompanied by other weapons into elderly cars inside simulations of war scenarios. They were actuality trained by a Polish ex-police officer who is now a private shooting instructor.

Prokopiev wants his men to gain critical battle experience, with every one other accompanied by he hopes that one day in a short time a window of chance will not shut for democratic alter inside Belarus. But he says it will need fighters exist fond of himself to exist prepared, with every one other accompanied by for members of the safety forces inside Belarus to turn opposed to Lukashenko.

The 2020 presidential election inside Belarus was widely seen while fraudulent, nevertheless massive road protests opposed to Lukashenko actuality awarded a sixth word were met accompanied by a brutal management crackdown, leading to Prokopiev's belief that no indeed "velvet revolution" tin exist expected inside Belarus.

"Power from Lukashenko tin only exist taken by force," he said.

On Saturday, men accompanied by another unit, Kastus Kalinouski, gathered inside Warsaw inside the Belarus House, where sleeping bags, mats with every one other accompanied by other Ukraine-bound apparatus were piled high. They sat together, talking with every one other accompanied by snacking on chocolate with every one other accompanied by joe while they prepared to deploy to Ukraine subsequent inside the day. Most didn't want to exist interviewed not here of concerns for their safety with every one other accompanied by that of family spine home.

The regiment, formally small portion of Ukraine's armed forces, was named following the leader of an anti-Russian insurrection inside the 19th century who is viewed while a national courageous male inside Belarus.

Lukashenko has called them "crazy Belarusian citizens," with every one other accompanied by authorities have place 50 members of Kastus Kalinouski on a wanted list with every one other accompanied by initiated criminal cases opposed to them.

One willing to report his motivations was a 19-year-old, Ales, who has lived inside Poland since last year. He fled Belarus following the country's safety service, which is still called the KGB, detained him with every one other accompanied by forced him to denounce an anti-Lukashenko resistance category inside a video. He was told he would exist jailed if he didn't comply.

Dressed all inside black from a hooded sweatshirt to his boots, he admitted to touch nervous while the little while arrived to head into Ukraine. He had never received some military training, nevertheless would obtain it on one occasion he arrived inside Ukraine. But fair how much, with every one other accompanied by where he would exist deployed, he didn't yet know.

He said he was going to fight not only to assist Ukraine "but to build Belarus independent." He said it was too important for him that people register that the Belarusian people are extremely different from the Lukashenko government.

It is a dangerous mission. At least quartet volunteers from the Kastus Kalinouski component have by that hour dated died. A deputy commander, Aliaksiej Skoblia, was killed inside a Russian ambush near Kyiv with every one other accompanied by was subsequent recognized by Zelenskyy while a Hero of Ukraine.

Still, the fighting inside Ukraine tin be in touch less dangerous at times than seeking to withstand Lukashenko at home, where numerous activists are inside prison facing harsh conditions.

Organizing the Kastus Kalinouski recruits was Pavel Kukhta, a 24-year-old who by that hour dated fought inside Ukraine's Donbas neighbourhood inside 2016, suffering burns with every one other accompanied by the mislaying of most of hearing inside one ear.

Kukhta said his half-brother, Nikita Krivtsov, was found deceased by hanging inside a wooded area external outside Minsk inside 2020. Police said there was no indeed proof of foul amuse oneself nevertheless Kukhta says he with every one other accompanied by the relax of the family are sure Krivtsov was killed for joining the anti-Lukashenko protests.

But he insisted that his support for Ukraine is not concerning revenge, only concerning fighting for democratic change.

"If Putin is defeated, Lukashenko will exist defeated," he said.

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Yuras Karmanau inside Lviv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP's coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

'A lengthy journey': Volunteers from Belarus fight for Ukraine

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