Yan Melnikau, a Belarusian-born volunteer fighter of the tactical group ‘Belarus’, tells Belsat TV about our compatriots who are fighting against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Belsat: It is reported that more and more people are willing to join your ranks. Who are them? What is their main motivation? What does the selection process look like?
Melnikau: Yes, there are many people who would like to join us. But apart from the selection process, the money issue counts. Not everyone has the opportunity to come [to Ukraine] and get all necessary papers, there are also other expenses. If we had an opportunity to cover the expenditures of all those eho would like to join us, we would already have had a Belarusian battalion – for example, Georgians and representatives of other nationalities fighting for Ukraine have their battalions.
When it comes to the selection, we are trying to engage young men who are highly unlikely to have some ties to security services.
Can we say that present-day volunteers are better prepared than those who joined the group at the beginning of military actions? Then all they needed was enthusiasm, but now one should have outfit, documents, etc.
… and motivation! When we were going to Donbas in 2014-2015, we realized that Russia was at war with Ukraine, there was a frontline and Russia hurled its effort into Ukraine. Now, however, we are witnessing propagandists’ getting tough on the Belarusian nation in Russian media. These are pretty the same things we heard at the beginning of their military campaign in Ukraine: “The Ukrainians is a pseudonation, their language is fictional!” Now is our turn to be attacked.
Now motivation is a bit different. In addition to seeing the problems of the Ukrainians, people who write to us realise that if we fail to stop the Russian aggressorin Ukraine, Belarus will be the next.
Is it now easier to get residence permit in Ukraine?
I cannot say everything is perfect, but there are certain improvements. Regarding the case of receiving documents, everyone has a different story, but the issues are solved; we are in contact with some officials, we are trying to connect with the proper authorities in order to make the procedure easier.
Talking about our return to Belarus, I want to stress that criminal cases [for the participation in the conflict in Ukraine] are not closed, i.e. we might be put behind bars if we return.
It should be recalled that in late 2016, the Belarusian law enforcers gave back some of my belongings seized during the search at my father’s and told him: „Let your son can not be afraid, tell him to come back.” As far as I know, they had the same talk with the mother of our fighter ‘Zubr’.
Do you believe them? Some Belarusians who were fighting for separatists have come back to Belarus. They are showing off that the special services have never laid a finger on them. At the same time, Lukashenka has started quarrelling with Putin…
We keep an eye on the situation of these Belarusians who mostly call themselves Russians. You are right, no one prevents them from entering Belarus. As for Lukashenka, we have been knowing him over 20 years. Everyone is well aware that his words cost nothing. We do not believe him.
In April 2016, the House of Representatives of Belarus made amendments to the legislation of the country, including Article “Mercenarism”. If earlier this article was enforced only against Belarusian citizens who were paid for their participation in military operations in another country. Now the state considers mercenaries even people who went to war not for money.
According to the Belarusian Interior Ministry, the country’s law enforcement agencies opened over 130 criminal cases against citizens of Belarus who fought or are fighting in Donbas.