Information in the review is provided as of December 1, 2023
In November, general activities of the Belarusian Armed Forces were focused on summarizing the results of the academic year and training new recruits drafted during the fall conscription. An important event for the Belarusian Armed Forces was the transfer of the Polonez-M divizion set.
The activity of the Russian Armed Forces didn’t change in November. There may be about 2000 servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces in Belarus, who don’t pose a military threat to Ukraine.
The number of PMC Wagner mercenaries in Belarus in early December may be estimated at several hundred people. There was no significant activity of the mercenaries. Training of representatives of law enforcement agencies (primarily the Internal Troops) by the mercenaries continued.
The general medium-term forecast of the military situation in Belarus remains the same: there is no reason to expect an offensive of the Russian Armed Forces from the territory of Belarus, as well as an increase in its military presence. The significance of PMC Wagner as a destabilizing factor has almost disappeared.
1. Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus
1.1. Organization of combat training.
Traditionally, a low level of military activity was observed in November. This is explained by the fact that during this period, the training and adaptation of new recruits drafted during the fall conscription campaign usually takes place, as well as the summarization of the results of the academic year.
Significant combat training activities include the following:
1) On November 2, training on the organization of troop service was held at the 7th Engineering Regiment. During the training, together with representatives of EW units, they practiced countering UAVs, searching for and detaining their operators.
2) Battalion tactical drills with units of the 38th Air Assault Brigade were held. Servicemen performed tasks to search and block units of the conditional enemy, repair equipment. Firing tasks were practiced using Mi-8MTV-5 helicopters, UAVs and artillery.
3) On November 10, the second stage of training with representatives of motorized rifle units on firing BMP-2 weapons from closed firing positions was held in the Western Operational Command. Deputy battalion commanders and company commanders were involved in the training.
4) On November 16, a training on the organization of troop service was held at the 65th Automobile Brigade with representatives of the Transport Support Department. During the event, the procedure for conducting training with the personnel of the on-duty unit was practiced, as well as the procedure for the actions of the daily duty unit in emergency situations.
Training session for non-staff crews of the 23-mm ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft systems. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Belarus
5) On November 22, a training session was held to train non-staff crews of the 23-mm ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft systems and the 2K20 Zenit mobile anti-aircraft artillery systems. Previously it was reported that in 2023, the ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft systems began to be removed from storage.
6) On November 23, the II International Conference “Problematic issues of the use of units of Missile and Artillery Troops in local conflicts of the present day” was held at the Military Academy of Belarus. The conference was attended by representatives of the Russian General Staff.
During the month, initial military trainings were also reported to be conducted with military personnel drafted for active military service. The initial military training course ended with comprehensive control training.
In November, events were held to summarize the results of the 2022/2023 academic year in the troops. The results were summarized in the structural units of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus, some branches of the troops, some units and garrisons of the Belarusian Armed Forces. We should note that the 2023/2024 academic year was declared the year of field training (note: field training means a set of skills of the personnel of units that allow them to perform the assigned tasks).
II International Conference “Problematic issues of the use of units of Missile and Artillery Troops in local conflicts of the present day.” Photo: Military Academy of Belarus
At the military oath-taking ceremony at the 72nd Joint Training Center, Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Zhuk said, “This year, the system of military training has been very seriously clarified. And starting from this year, young soldiers will start training under a new program, taking into account the world conflicts that are currently taking place, in order to train what is necessary in war.” According to the official, the strengthening of border security with Ukraine will continue.
Training of servicemen of the Internal Troops by mercenaries of PMC Wagner continued. It was reported on the completion of the fourth course of tactical-special training of servicemen of special purpose units of the Internal Troops. Instructors at the course included mercenaries of the PMC Wagner. At the same time, there were no reports about mercenaries conducting trainings with the Belarusian Armed Forces. We can state that the servicemen of the Internal Troops (unlike the ones of the Belarusian Armed Forces) are systematically trained by Wagner mercenaries.
Training course for servicemen of special purpose units of the Internal Troops. Photo: Internal Troops
Combat training activities of other law enforcement agencies include:
1) On November 1 – 3, 2023, the State Secretariat of the Security Council led an inspection of the state system for responding to acts of terrorism. As part of the inspection, counter-terrorism drills were conducted.
2) On November 14, the commander of the Internal Troops conducted a sudden combat readiness inspection of the military administration bodies of the Internal Troops.
We should note that a new special purpose detachment, Tornado, is being formed at the 2nd Special Militia Brigade (military unit 3310). The detachment will be the ninth special purpose detachment established in the Internal Troops in 2022-2023.
1.2. Military training sessions with reservists.
During the month, there was almost no information about training sessions. There was only information about sending 10 reservists to a military training session by the military commissariat of Homiel district.
Diagram №1. The number of conscripts drafted from the reserve for military training sessions in 2023 Belarusian Hajun
Thus, the total number of reservists drafted to military training sessions in November can be estimated at no less than 10 people. We note that in reality, the number of reservists who underwent military training sessions may be much higher.
In total, at least 10,030 people were drafted to various types of training sessions from January to November 2023. Of these, 1287 were drafted to territorial defense training sessions during this period. Earlier, the Ministry of Defense of Belarus reported on its plans to draft 9000 reservists for training sessions in 2023. Thus, the declared limit for the draft of reservists to training sessions was exceeded.
1.3. Movements of military equipment and aviation activity.
The intensity of movements of military equipment decreased compared to October. The movements of military equipment were mostly related to daily activities of military units. In general, the low level of movements of military equipment is seasonal (for more details, see paragraph 1.1 of the review). As in previous months, there was nothing unusual in movements of equipment of the Belarusian Armed Forces. More details on the movements of military equipment are available on the map of military activity.
Movements of military equipment of the Belarusian Armed Forces in November Belarusian Hajun
The intensity of movements of the Belarusian Armed Forces by rail decreased significantly compared to October. Only one train with equipment of the 38th Air Assault Brigade was recorded during the month.
Movements of the Belarusian Armed Forces by rail in November Belarusian Hajun
The intensity of flights of the Belarusian Air Force decreased compared to October. Lida, Baranavichy, Machulishchy and Luninets airfields were mainly used for the flights. The entire helicopter and aircraft fleet of the Belarusian Air Force was involved in the flights. There was nothing unusual during the flights.
Aviation incidents between Poland and Belarus continued. For example, on November 2, the head of the Department of International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus claimed that a Polish light-engine aircraft repeatedly crossed Belarus’ border up to 200 meters into the territory during patrolling. According to the official, Poland has committed 5 such violations since the beginning of September. There is no data confirming the mentioned incident at our disposal.
Activity of the Belarusian Air Force in November Belarusian Hajun
1.4. Military commissariats. Territorial defense and national home guard.
There were no reports of drills with the territorial defense and national home guard in November again. We recall that since the beginning of the year, territorial defense drills have been conducted in 12 districts of Belarus. About 1287 reservists were drafted from the reserve for these drills.
Other activities to train territorial defense and territorial troops include the following:
1) On November 13, at a meeting with Lukashenka, Ihar Shunevich, the head of the Belarusian society of hunters and anglers, said that members of his organization would join the national home guard if necessary. Later Shunevich specified that “the possibility of using [hunters] in the interests of territorial defense is being considered. Hunters can be used as sniper and anti-sniper cover if necessary.” The analysis has shown that the use of hunters as an independent element of the territorial defense is an untenable idea. The armament, as well as the level of training of hunters is insufficient for combat operations against the regular army. And the shortage of ammunition for smoothbore weapons basically doubts the military potential of hunters.
Territorial defense training session at the Losvida training ground. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Belarus
2) On November 22-23, a training session with officials of the territorial defense authorities was held at the Losvida training ground. Representatives of military commissariats and the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Flora and Fauna took part in the training.
In November, conscripts drafted for active military service took an oath. Available data show that a record number of citizens were drafted for active service in the border guard bodies in the last 12 years. The probable reason for the increase in the number of conscripts is the strengthening of border security with Ukraine. In general, the data on the number of those who took the oath show growing attractiveness of service under contract instead of active one.
No criminal cases against citizens who evaded conscription were reported in November.
Diagram № 2. The number of verdicts for evading conscription for active military service in 2023 Belarusian Hajun
1.5. Supplies of new military equipment to the troops. Activity of the military-industrial complex.
Supplies of new military equipment to the troops.
The following new armament and military equipment received by the Belarusian Armed Forces were reported in November:
1) On November 15, the 336th Rocket Artillery Brigade of the Belarusian Armed Forces received a divizion set of the V-300 Polonez-M missile system. The system is capable of using different types of missiles and ensuring the destruction of targets at a range of up to 300 kilometers. This is the second divizion set of the system in service with the Belarusian Armed Forces.
Transfer of the Polonez-M system. Photo: State Authority for Military Industry
2) On November 29, a ceremony was held to hand over new and modernized communication equipment to the troops. A total of 25 combined radars and special control centers were handed over. The photo shows at least eight R-142NMB Start combined radars, two R-414MBRP Sosna-2 radars, and others. New communication equipment is transferred to the troops twice a year. The previous batch of new equipment was transferred in May 2023.
Activity of the military-industrial complex.
1) Another stage of testing of the Klyon short-range reconnaissance radar station developed by ALEVKURP JSC was passed. The Klyon short-range reconnaissance radar is designed to detect, measure coordinates, track and recognize moving targets (ground and low-altitude air targets) in conditions of limited optical visibility.
2) On November 17, the State Authority for Military Industry announced the completion of tests of the Sapfir grenade launcher system. The system is designed to counter lightly armored and unarmored targets, to defeat enemy personnel located in bunkers, light field type shelters, urban and rural areas. Serial production is scheduled to begin in May 2024.
3) On November 20, the State Authority for Military Industry reported on the continuation of testing of prototypes of the Volat-V2 APC (MZKT-690003). The APC is designed for the transportation of personnel to the place of combat missions, its fire support, protection from small arms fire, destruction of enemy anti-tank weapons, etc.
We should also note that there has been no information about the T-72BM2 tank, Belarus’ modernization of the T-72, since May 2023. Despite previous statements by officials, it is unlikely that 20-30 tanks will be modernized by the end of 2023. Most likely, the project’s launch date will be moved to 2024.
Volat-V2 APC during the tests. Photo: State Authority for Military Industry
1.6. Amendments to the legislation in the military sphere.
1) On November 1, the so-called House of Representatives adopted the draft law “On amending laws on ensuring national security” in the first reading. The document provides for tougher liability for those who evade military duty. The bill also provides for a number of other mobilization measures. In general, the measures taken demonstrate the continuing militarization of Belarus.
2) On November 2, Lukashenka held a meeting on the issue of re-establishing the previously liquidated Military Prosecutor’s Office. As a result of the meeting, it was decided not to create the Military Prosecutor’s Office for now.
3) On November 3, a resolution of the Council of Ministers No.750 “On the procedure for the formation and provision of the national home guard” was published. The document regulates the procedure for forming (disbanding) the national home guard, manning and keeping records of volunteers, enrolling volunteers into the national home guard, ensuring their activities, and other issues.
4) On November 8, Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Aliaksandr Valfovich said that the draft agreement on mutual security guarantees between Belarus and Russia was almost ready and could be submitted for signing in the near future.
5) On November 17, it became known about the introduction of a new position in the Belarusian Armed Forces – instructor for work with religious personnel. Clergymen who have spiritual education, have been ordained, and are fit for military service according to health requirements are appointed to the post. The purpose of the post is to use the potential of clergymen to educate the military. Currently, the Orthodox Church actively interacts with military units of the Belarusian Armed Forces.
An instructor for work with religious personnel. Photo: the 38th Air Assault Brigade
6) On November 29, a program of the so-called Union State “Modernization of logistics facilities planned for joint use to support the regional group of troops (forces) of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation” for 2023-2027 was adopted. Thus, Russia will continue to invest in the maintenance of Belarus’ military infrastructure for its further use for its own purposes.
1.7. International cooperation.
The month was full of international military cooperation events.
For example, delegations of the Armed Forces of Zimbabwe and Iran, the Military Attache at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Russia, as well as the Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan visited Belarus during the month.
Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin paid a working visit to the United Arab Emirates. During the visit, negotiations with the Minister of Defense Affairs of the United Arab Emirates were held. The Belarusian military delegation also visited the international airshow Dubai Airshow 2023.
Meeting of the Joint Belarus-Iran Commission on Military Cooperation. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Belarus
On November 22, a joint meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Council of Defence Ministers and the Committee of Secretaries of the CSTO Security Councils was held. During the meeting, issues related to the Special Purpose Forces of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force, peacekeeping contingents and national contingents of the Collective Rapid Deployment Forces of the Central Asian region of collective security, as well as the CSTO Collective Air Forces were considered. The new structure of the Joint Command of the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces was also approved. The meeting was held before a session of the CSTO Collective Security Council.
1.8. Tactical nuclear weapons.
The following information regarding the deployment of TNWs in Belarus was received in November:
1) According to the Community of Railway Workers of Belarus, two more trains with components of TNWs arrived in Belarus in September. On September 15-24, 26 cars loaded with TNW components and cars for the transportation of personnel and support arrived at Prudok station. The 2631st air base for storage of missile weapons and ammunition is located near the station.
2) On November 23, a session of the CSTO Collective Security Council was held. Apart from the standard narratives of anti-West propaganda, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said, “In this context, reproaches about the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in our country, on our territory, are just absurd.”
We note that at the moment, there is no reliable data that would confirm the presence of TNWs on the territory of Belarus.
2. Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
2.1. Russian group in Belarus.
The situation with the group of the Russian Armed Forces in Belarus didn’t change in November compared to the previous months. There was no transfer of military contingents to Belarus during the month. There is no reason to believe that servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces will start arriving in Belarus in the near future. At the same time, it is possible that if a new wave of mobilization is announced in Russia, the infrastructure of the Belarusian Armed Forces will again be used to train the mobilized.
Russian military continue to be stationed at Mazyr (Bokau) and Ziabrauka airfields. There is no information about the changes in the number and composition of equipment located at Mazyr (Bokau) airfield at our disposal.
Russian military also continue to operate the Baranavichy radar station and the 43rd Vileika communication center. A small number of servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces are also stationed at Baranavichy airfield (their total number will be estimated at dozens of people).
Thus, as of December 1, the number of Russian military personnel stationed in Belarus didn’t change and can be estimated at about 2000 people. Of these:
- from the regional group of troops – 0;
- at Baranavichy, Mazyr (Bokau) and Ziabrauka airfields – 500-600 people;
- at the Baranavichy radar station and the 43rd Vileika communication center – up to 1450 people.
2.2. Movements of military equipment and aviation activity.
The intensity of movements of military equipment by public roads didn’t change compared to October. We can state that due to the decrease in the number of Russian military in Belarus, only single movements of equipment of the Russian Armed Forces are recorded. Movements are recorded in the vicinity of Mazyr and Homiel, where Russian military are deployed (for details, see paragraph 2.1 of the review). More details on the movements of military equipment are available on the map.
Movements of military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces in November Belarusian Hajun
There were no movements of the Russian Armed Forces by rail recorded in November. This is primarily explained by a significant reduction in the number of the Russian group deployed in Belarus.
Aviation activity of the Russian Aerospace Forces increased more than twice in November compared to October.
Activity of the Russian Aerospace Forces in November Belarusian Hajun
Military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces and aircraft linked to PMC Wagner kept arriving at the airfields of the Belarusian Armed Forces and civilian airports:
Machulishchy airfield: passenger – 1 Tu-214, 1 Tu-154; transport – 3 Il-76.
Minsk National Airport/Mahiliou airport: passenger – 1 Tu-204, 1 Il-96; transport – 4 Il-76.
Lida airfield: transport – 1 An-26.
Babruisk airfield: transport – 1 Il-76. The arrival could be connected with the activities of PMC Wagner.
As can be seen in the diagram below, the number of arrivals of military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Belarus increased compared to the previous month. However, most of the arrivals of aircraft were connected with the CSTO summit events in Minsk (for details, see paragraph 1.7 of the review).
We can also note that on November 16, 21, 22 and 30, flights of fighters of the Russian Aerospace Forces were recorded at Baranavichy airfield.
Diagram №3. The number of aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces that arrived in Belarus Belarusian Hajun
No arrivals of military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces at Homiel airport were recorded during the month. The dynamics of arrivals of the Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft at Homiel airport since August 2022 can be found in the chart below.
Diagram №4. Arrivals of military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces at Homiel airport Belarusian Hajun
The number of the Russian Aerospace Forces aviation group didn’t change during the month. As of December 1, the following aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces are permanently stationed on the territory of Belarus:
- at Lida airfield – one Su-25 attack aircraft, which has been at the airfield since August 31;
- at Baranavichy airfield – two Su-24M/MR aircraft and at least one Su-30SM fighter.
3. Wagner private military company
The situation with mercenaries in Belarus didn’t change compared to the previous month.
There has been no information on the status of the mercenaries’ tent camp since October. We recall that as of early October, 99 tents, or 34% of their initial number, were left in the field camp of PMC Wagner in Tsel village. Also, about 1040 pieces of equipment (mainly cars) were left in the camp. According to available information, at least part of the equipment is still there.
The mercenaries continue to conduct systematic trainings with servicemen of the Internal Troops. At the same time, there were no reports on the interaction of PMC Wagner with units of the Belarusian Armed Forces in November (for more details, see paragraph 1.1 of the review).
Training course for servicemen of special purpose units of the Internal Troops. Photo: Internal Troops
For example, in a photo published by the Internal Troops press service from the end of the fourth training course for servicemen of special purpose units of the Internal Troops, at least 13 people with closed balaclavas and blurred faces can be seen in the front row. In general, blurring of faces in photos of servicemen of special purpose units is a normal practice. However, in this photo, only the servicemen of the Internal Troops standing in the first row have their faces hidden (including Commander of the Internal Troops Karpiankou and Commander of the 3rd Special Purpose Brigade of the Internal Troops Miksha). Based on this, we may assume that those standing in the first row were mercenaries of PMC Wagner, working as instructors in the Internal Troops. Therefore, about 10 mercenaries conduct training of servicemen of the Internal Troops on a permanent basis.
Activity of PMC Wagner in October Belarusian Hajun
During the month, aviation activity of aircraft linked to PMC Wagner was recorded. For example, on November 28, an Il-76 transport aircraft (RA-76463) of the Russian AbakanAir cargo airline arrived at Babruisk airfield. The aircraft stayed in Belarus for 5,5 hours and flew to Bangui (the capital of the Central African Republic) via Tunisia. It is known that mercenaries of PMC Wagner are deployed in the Central African Republic, and its activities in the country are primarily related to Russia’s control over the natural resources of this country. There is every reason to believe that the arrival of the Il-76 aircraft was related to the activities of PMC Wagner. We may assume that the aircraft was transporting mercenaries or their belongings from Belarus to CAR. This is the second recorded flight of this kind, which could have indeed transported a number of mercenaries from Belarus to Africa (the first one was recorded in November).
No active movements of PMC Wagner mercenaries on the territory of Belarus have been recorded. The number of the mercenaries who are still in Belarus can be estimated at several hundred people.
Speaking about the prospects for the presence of the mercenaries in Belarus, we can note that the forecasts described in the review for October remain valid.
4. General conclusions
1. No major combat training activities were conducted in November. During the month, the results of the academic year were summarized at the central military administration bodies and military units.
Analysis of data on the oath taken by servicemen drafted during the fall conscription shows the growing popularity of military service under contract instead of active military service. We may assume that the Ministry of Defense of Belarus counts on increasing the number of contract servicemen to staff units of the Belarusian Armed Forces.
One of the important events of November in the sphere of rearmament was the transfer of a divizion set of the Polonez-M missile systems to the troops. The new system increases the firepower of the Missile and Artillery Troops. In general, 2023 was a very important year for the troops in terms of rearmament. The arsenal of units was expanded not only with the Polonez-M systems, but also with the Iskander-M. However, the key issue is the quantity of ammunition for these systems and the level of localization of production for the Polonez-M system.
In general, an increase in the number of combat training activities can be expected in the first half of December. A sudden combat readiness inspection can be conducted, as it happened in December 2022. And the intensity of combat training will definitely be not lower (and possibly even higher) than in 2023.
2. The general conclusion about the status of the Russian Armed Forces on the territory of Belarus didn’t change. The deployed units of the Russian troops don’t pose a threat to Ukraine and other countries bordering Belarus. At the moment, the number of the Russian contingent in Belarus may increase, for example, if a new wave of mobilization in Russia is announced, or under the influence of other unpredictable events.
The level of activity of the Russian Armed Forces in Belarus can still be characterized as very low.
3. All conclusions regarding the prospects for the deployment of PMC Wagner mercenaries in Belarus given in the review for October 2023 remain valid. A small number of mercenaries are still in Belarus, who serve as instructors for law enforcement agencies (mostly for the Internal Troops). It is possible that this group of mercenaries may join (or has already joined) the security forces of the Lukashenka regime.
In general, the level of activity of PMC Wagner in Belarus can still be characterized as low.