Several explosions occurred at a military airfield near the Belarusian capital of Minsk last Sunday. The opposition initiative BYPOL, in which former employees of Belarusian law enforcement agencies have organized themselves, speaks of a drone attack carried out by partisans on a Russian Beriev A-50 reconnaissance aircraft and claims to have prepared the act of sabotage. The damage caused to the machine was serious, "the plane will definitely not fly anymore," said the initiative a few hours after the attack.
If the information is correct, this would be the largest single loss of the Russian armed forces after the sinking of the Black Sea Fleet's flagship "Moskva" in April last year. According to the military website "Military Today", a Beriev A-50 costs between 330 and 500 million US dollars. The Kremlin has only a few copies of this surveillance aircraft, which is of great importance, among other things, for planning and conducting air attacks on Ukraine.
In an interview with ntv.de, Aliaksandr Azarau, founder of the BYPOL initiative, talks about why the activists targeted this plane of all things. He explains details of the preparation and execution of the act of sabotage. And also names the motives.
ntv.de: How did you organize this campaign? How much time did the preparation take? Where did the partisans get the explosive charge for the drones?
Aliaksandr Azarau: The preparation took about four months. It is very difficult to organize such an action from abroad while the partisans are in Belarus. (Note: BYPOL headquarters is in Warsaw.) I can't say where and how we got hold of the explosive charge. We chose kamikaze drones. There were two explosions that severely damaged the front part of the aircraft and the middle part of the dish-shaped radar. According to preliminary information, the machine is out of service and will no longer be able to fly. There is also information that other Russian planes based in Belarus left the country and were transferred to Russian airfields.
Do you mean only planes based at Matschulishchy airport or also at other military airports?
Apparently all, but this information is not yet confirmed. We're still checking. Special equipment was also observed, which was sent to Matschulishchy from Russia to disassemble the plane.
Why did you target this particular plane?
According to our information, Russia has only four copies of this model. The A-50 is a kind of flying headquarters. This aircraft monitored the territory of Ukraine and EU countries and transmitted coordinates of potential targets to fighter jets, which then attacked these targets. This machine is unique and very expensive, it costs around $330 million. Because of the sanctions, it is almost impossible to repair them.
You speak of serious damage caused by the attack. How do you know what exactly is damaged and how bad? Do you have informants at the Makhulishchy airfield? Or do you have photos or videos that would confirm what you said?
We don't have any recordings at the moment, but we might get them a little later. But we have such information. Satellite images were also published yesterday, which confirm our statements. Black spots can be seen on it on the front and middle part of the plane.
However, the recordings show that the plane has basically remained intact. Could it be that only the hull was damaged while the expensive technology, such as the radar, for example, was preserved?
No, according to our information, the plane was badly damaged. We'll see if it ever picks up again or not. We will watch what will happen to it, where it will be taken.
How many people were directly involved in conducting the attack? Where are you now?
It was a group of partisans. I cannot say how many people were involved. When preparing for the attack, we attached great importance to working out escape routes. The partisans left Belarus immediately after the action was carried out. You are safe.
Why isn't the Department of Defense commenting on the attack?
This indicates that the action was significant. You are in shock and don't know what to do next.
According to BYPOL, it is also behind numerous acts of sabotage on the Belarusian railways. The "rail war" in the first weeks of the Russian invasion helped, among other things, to thwart Russia's capture of Kiev. Why are there currently no promotions on the railway?
The "rail war" lasted about a month. Then a massive wave of arrests began. Some of our people ended up behind bars. But the goal was achieved: the Russians withdrew from the Kiev region. And we started looking for other objects. Especially since the regime sent numerous military personnel to monitor the railway facilities, which made it difficult to carry out actions there.
Why is there an active resistance movement against the war in Belarus and not in Russia?
In Russia, too, railway tracks are being dismantled and bridges blown up. But I can't speak for the Russians. As for the Belarusians - well, Belarus is currently occupied by Russian troops. Lukashenko practically sold our country to Russia. He is a criminal who illegally seized power. And Belarusians don't want to put up with that. We fight for the independence of our country.
The BYPOL initiative was founded in 2020 after the crackdown on peaceful protests. Originally, your goal was to bring down the regime. But now you are concentrating on sabotage of military installations. Why?
It's not that we just want to overthrow Lukashenko. We want to restore law and order in Belarus. Lukashenko is a criminal, and every Belarusian has the constitutional right to stop a crime he witnesses. His crime is the illegal seizure of power. Our duty as citizens is to stop him and remove him from power. In addition, there are Russian soldiers in our country who are using our territory, which Lukashenko has made available to them, for attacks on Ukraine. We are not allies of Russia. We are on the side of Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine and that's why we help her, like the whole civilized world.
What can we expect from you in the near future? Do you plan further actions?
We better talk about that after we've done it. But I can say one thing: we will not sit idly by. We will fight until victory.
Uladzimir Zhyhachou spoke with Aliaksandr Azarau