Railway war in Belarus – terrorism or resistance?

Belarusian students usually read about the railway war in history textbooks. They learn that it was an act of mass destruction of railroads to prevent German military transport, an element of Belarusian guerrilla warfare. Eighty years later, the term “railroad war” in Belarus was heard not only in history lessons, but also in the news.

Summary from the front: at least 48 detainees (many were later released, arrested for watching railway workers’ channels on Telegram messenger), 2 seriously injured, 4 broken signaling machines, 9 burnt relay tanks at railway junctions, And 6 transducer disassembled signals, 2 electronic attacks on the internal network of the Belarusian railways. But the true number of acts of sabotage is not yet known. In any case, the Ministry of the Interior talks about more than 80 acts of sabotage: this is how Belarusian law enforcement officers determine the deactivation of signaling devices and relay tanks, but they do not give details.

Hostilities began on February 26. On that day, the automation system and remote mechanics on the Talka – Wieriejcy line were turned off. The next day, a cyberattack occurred on the internal network of the Belarusian railways. Let me remind you that on that day a referendum was held in Belarus on the next amendment to the Constitution in the interests of Alexander Lukashenko. However, since Russian forces in Ukraine had been on the offensive for several days, no one paid any attention to the Belarusian referendum, except for Internet supporters who admitted the attack. They prepared it as a measure against the referendum. But it became part of the railroad war.

The cyber revolutionaries carried out the first attack on the Belarusian railways on January 24. They explained: This is a protest against the fact that the Lukashenka regime “allows the occupying forces to enter our land.” It was, in a sense, a training attack: it did not disable security and automation systems, but merely encrypted most servers and databases. The February offensive was more extensive.

Cybercriminals have disrupted the internal network, and above all the Niemen system that controls train traffic. Only manual control was possible. Likewise with the issuance of train tickets – already on February 28 there were huge queues in front of the ticket offices, because Internet sales did not work out. (By the way: System restore took 2 weeks).

On the night of the same day, the relay tanks burned down on the Gomel and Baranavichy railway sections. In these directions moved Russian military depots. When the lockers are down, neither the switches nor the traffic lights work. You have to switch to “manual” control, and trains can travel at a speed of no more than 20 kilometers per hour. Railroad proponents during World War II had no such opportunities.


On March 1, the marriage of Sergey and Ekaterina Glebko was held in Stupchi. Sergey and Ekaterina did not set fire to the relay tanks. They set fire to the logs that they laid out on the paths. In the evening, state-owned channels published a recording of Sergei Glebko’s beating, saying: “I put two records on the tracks because I saw a lot of messages on Telegram and disagreed with them. I wanted to express my support, and as it was, they set fire to these woods.” The spouses were charged under Article 289 of the Belarusian Criminal Code – “a terrorist act”.

Then there were other arrests: in Osipowicze – Aleksy Szyszkowiec, in Svetlogorsk – Dmitry and Natalia Rawicz, Denis Dikun and Alisa Malanowa, in Vitebsk – Sergey Konovalov, in Babrujsk – Yevgivniy Minkiewicz, Vladimir Avramtsev and Kevram. On the Telegram channel the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote about Shishkov that he “joined an extremist formation, disguised illegal activities in Belarus in the chat”, and that on March 1 he was instructed to close the railways and make Molotov cocktails. But since the whole claim is based on the fact that he “intended to, but did not,” the article is not about terrorism, but about participation in an extremist formation.

So Szyszkowiec is threatened with imprisonment from three to seven years, and the husband and wife of Glebko – from eight to twenty. Records are more expensive.

Denis Deacon from Svetlogorsk also appeared on the Belarusian channel siloviki in a repentance video. Also, like Sergey Glebko, he was badly beaten. His left eye is so swollen that it’s hard to see. He has bruises all over his face – traces of the way he made him repent in front of the camera. But at least Dickon was up and talking. The other detainee appeared unconscious, bleeding after being shot.

That was at the end of March. The pictures of the wounded were greatly enjoyed by state television channels. In addition to the staff, journalists and siloviki employees are happy to explain: it was the residents of Babrujsk who burned two relay tanks near Osipowicz on March 28, and were detained a few days later, when they were preparing for the upcoming attack. The police fired live bullets at them. According to Deputy Interior Minister Gennady Kazakiewicz, the Belarusian special services are so professional that, even with the order to shoot to kill, they acted skillfully: two of the three detainees are in intensive care, they were shot in the knees, perhaps they will. live.

Incidentally, YouTube, where state-owned channels have posted footage of the detainees, warns that “the content contains material that may frighten or shock some users.” And in Belarus, these films were shown on television in the morning, evening and afternoon – with comments from service representatives and publicists.

These three people from Bobruisk are ambulance driver Yevgeny Menkevich, athlete Vladimir Avramtsev and taxi driver Dmitry Klimov. They were tried under the article “Terrorism”. A few days later, he joined the “terrorists” from Babruysk Sergey Konovalov, an employee of the Vitebsk Railway Signals and Communications Department. It was reported on the Belarusian Railways website that Konovalov was arrested after the conviction of a local ideologist with whom he was in conflict. An ideologist (yes, there is such a position in Belarus: the deputy head of ideological signals and communications) informed the KGB that Konovalov was preparing a terrorist attack. It was enough.

witch of the west

However, the sabotage of the railways continued, even after bloody films were shown on television. In mid-March, relay tanks on the lines Domanovo – Leśna in Brest Oblast and Fironowo – Zagaty in Vitebsk Oblast were frozen, and six signal converters were stolen at Orsha Central Station. On March 19, patrols of internal troops (with tents, positioning systems and weapons) appeared on the railways of the Gomel and Brest states, and on March 23, the Belarusian railway community was recognized online as an extremist formation.

Dozens of arrests began on the last day of March. On that day, 38 “takfiri” films simultaneously appeared on the state channels of Telegram. Everyone in the frame said the same thing: I subscribed to the railway community channel on Telegram, but I didn’t know it was an extremist; The KGB explained everything, now I deeply regret and call on Belarusian citizens not to join these extremist websites.

The exact number of detainees or acts of vandalism they committed is unknown. Belarusian security officials are also intertwined in these numbers. For them, something else is most important. They are trying as much as possible to present the new rail war as an operation of Western intelligence services. In the context of detainees, they still use the phrases: “Western manager”, “entrusted with the task”, or “acted for material gain”. Western chiefs frighten children more than Baba Yaga. But to no avail: in school history textbooks it is said that railroad warfare is a heroic resistance to guerrilla warfare.

The text is from the portal “Nowa Gazeta. Europe”, founded by journalists from “Nova Gazeta”, the famous Russian newspaper specializing in looking at the hands of power. Even the fact that last year’s Nobel laureate Dmitriy Muratov led it didn’t save “Nowa Gazeta” from shutting down for describing the war in Ukraine.

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