What is known about drone attack on Russian military aircraft near Minsk?

On the morning of February 26, several explosions were heard from a military airfield in Machulishchy near Minsk. Later, the organization of former law enforcement officers BYPOL reported that the Belarusian Peramoha initiative participants had damaged a Russian reconnaissance Beriev A-50 aircraft with the help of remotely piloted drones.

According to Aliaksandr Azarau, the BYPOL head, the front and middle sections of the aircraft, avionics, and radar antenna were damaged. The aircraft, whose cost is estimated at more than $330 million USD, played a critical role in correcting the trajectories of Russian missiles launched at Ukrainian territory.

On the same day, additional traffic police checkpoints were set up and inspections were carried out on strategically important roads in Belarus. Then, there surfaced reports that national border controls were tightened and a native of Crimea, who is said to have been involved in the incident, was put on a wanted list. In addition, security services started questioning drone owners. According to the Viasna Human Rights Center, at least six people were arrested in Dziarzhynsk alone and sentenced to two days of detention for “disobedience”. The people were reportedly beaten after being arrested.

On February 28, satellite images of the Machulishchy airfield, taken by the aerospace company Maxar Technologies after the alleged strike, were published. Judging by the imagery, the warplane is still at the airfield and has not suffered any dramatic damage. However, dark-colored patches can be spotted on the aircraft’s radar antenna, which is consistent with the earlier report from BYPOL.

Belarusian authorities have not commented on the incident for two days. Then, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Yury Ambrazevich responded to Reuters’ inquiry: “Given the absence of an official reaction, I am deeply convinced that this is another fake [claim] aimed at highlighting certain failures in our national security.”

The renowned political analyst Aliaksandr Klaskouski points out that Belarusian authorities “have already suffered a major PR fiasco. They should have either refuted it [the alleged drone strike] outright or carried out a public debriefing”. He is confident that this scandal “deals a blow to the propagandistic construct that Belarus is an ‘island of stability’ in this mad world”.

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