By The Financial District
Belarusians Join War vs Russia To Free Ukraine And Themselves
One is a restaurateur who fled Belarus when he learned he was about to be arrested for criticizing President Alexander Lukashenko. Another was given the choice of either denouncing fellow opposition activists or being jailed.
Photo Insert: Russian troops used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine early in the war, and Lukashenko has publicly stood by longtime ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing him as his “big brother.”
And one is certain his brother was killed by the country’s security forces. What united them is their determination to resist Lukashenko by fighting against Russian forces in Ukraine, Vanessa Gera reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Belarusians are among those who have answered a call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for foreign fighters to go to Ukraine and join the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine.
And volunteers have answered that call, given the high stakes in a conflict which many people see as a civilizational battle pitting dictatorship against freedom.
For the Belarusians, who consider Ukrainians a brethren nation, the stakes feel especially high. Russian troops used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine early in the war, and Lukashenko has publicly stood by longtime ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing him as his “big brother.”
Russia, for its part, has pumped billions of dollars into shoring up Lukashenko’s Soviet-style, state-controlled economy with cheap energy and loans.
Weakening Putin, the Belarusian volunteers believe, would also weaken Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994, and create an opening to topple his oppressive government and bring democratic change to the nation of nearly 10 million people.
“We understand that it’s a long journey to free Belarus and the journey starts in Ukraine,” said Vadim Prokopiev, a 50-year-old businessman who used to run restaurants in Minsk. He fled the country after a rumor spread that he would be arrested for saying publicly that the government wasn’t doing enough for small businesses.
“When the Ukraine war will be eventually over, our war will just start. It is impossible to free the country of Belarus without driving Putin’s fascist troops out of Ukraine,” he said.
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