Belarus’s exiled opposition has claimed partisans carried out a daring operation against Russian forces on Sunday, described as the “most successful act of sabotage since the beginning of 2022.”
What did they do?
According to Franak Viacorka, a close adviser to opposition figurehead Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a very rare and expensive Russian airplane was destroyed using drones.
“Partisans... confirmed a successful special operation to blow up a rare Russian plane at the airfield in Machulishchy near Minsk,” he said on Twitter.
“This is the most successful act of sabotage since the beginning of 2022,” he added.
Viacorka did not say what kind of Russian plane had been targeted but said it was worth €330 million.
According to news media close to the opposition, it was a Beriev A-50 surveillance plane.
The A-50 aircraft is a Russian airborne early warning aircraft, with airborne command and control capabilities which can track up to 60 targets at a time.
“I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus & fight for the freedom of Ukraine,” Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter in response to the news.
Has anyone confirmed the operation?
Currently we only have reports from the Belarusian opposition and the operation has yet to be independently verified.
What about the people who carried out the operation?
For obvious reasons no details have been released about the saboteurs involved but Viacorka said they had already left the country and were safe.
Remind me, why are Russian planes being blown up on Belarusian territory?
Militarily, Belarus is Russia’s biggest supporter having allowed both its land and airspace to be used by the Kremlin’s forces.
Despite resisting pressure thus far from Putin to send troops into Ukraine, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has had no qualms about the thousands of missiles launched from his territory toward Ukraine’s cities.
Lukashenko has little choice in the matter, given he’s only still in power because Russia helped him quash a popular uprising after a contested election in 2020.
In recent months, Belarus and Russia have held a series of military operations and Ukraine has expressed fears that Minsk will enter the conflict.
Has this sort of thing happened before?
The main Belrusian partisan campaign has centered on the railways that Russia uses to transport troops and weapons. Numerous attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion have targeted signaling equipment in particular.
The Belarusian interior ministry said in April it arrested three men in their late 20s, who allegedly damaged and set fire to electric relay boxes and signal boxes near the town of Osipovichi southeast of Minsk and also had a device designed to derail a train.
Authorities in Belarus have tried to clamp down hard on partisans, even passing laws to make attempted acts of what they describe as "terrorism", punishable by death.
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