Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

Belarusian volunteers joining Ukraine's fight against pro-Russian militants

Naviny.by

A volunteer unit consisting of Belarusians willing to join the Ukrainian government's military operation against pro-Russian militants in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces is being established in the Volyn province, Ihor Huz, deputy head of the regional council, told BelaPAN.

The unit's establishment has been overseen by National Alliance, a Ukrainian youth organization that has cooperated with Belarusian opposition youth groups such as Malady Front and the Belarusian Popular Front's youth wing for a decade.

"We have been contacted by Belarusians who attended our sports and patriotic camps and who want to defend Ukraine," said Mr. Huz.

He said that the Pahonya unit, named after Belarus' historically national emblem, would be used to train Belarusian volunteers. After the training the volunteers will join the Donbass, Aydar and Azov volunteer battalions that have helped the regular army retake cities in the provinces from armed pro-Russian separatists.

Five Belarusian volunteers have already arrived in the province to receive such training, according to Mr. Huz. "These are activists of a number of youth and not only youth organizations. All of them are under 30 years of age, but we have already been contacted by more people, including those older," he said. "Since the Belarusians fear sanctions from the Belarusian authorities we will not identify them by name or show their photographs."

Mr. Huz said that the Ukrainian government had nothing to do with the establishment of the unit. "This is the initiative of those people in Ukraine who have long been in contact with Belarusians," he noted.

When reached by BelaPAN, a Malady Front activist said that some of the group's members had left for Ukraine but did not elaborate.