4:00 pm EDT: Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) is intensifying efforts likely intended to establish the logistical infrastructure necessary to sustain a near-continuous Russian conventional military presence in Belarus. ISW assesses recent WMD exercises are preparations for the upcoming Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Unbreakable Brotherhood command-staff exercises planned for October 12-16 at the Losvido training ground in Vitebsk, Belarus.
5:45pm EDT: Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) continues to conduct command and control exercises—activities necessary for a sustained Russian deployment to Belarus. Brigade-sized (3,500 personnel) elements—including tank, motorized rifle, artillery, army aviation, and reconnaissance units—of the Moscow-based First Tank Army began exercises emphasizing unit cohesion and command and control effectiveness at the Mulino training ground in Nizhny Novgorod on September 28. An unspecified sub-battalion-sized (200 personnel) element of the First Tank Army conducted exercises to defend a command post’s communication systems against sabotage on September 29. Unspecified combat crews practiced organizing command and control systems, logistics, occupying and concealing positions, and air defense on September 29. Rocket artillery and other fire elements conducted live fire exercises with UAV support on September 30 and October 2. These exercises at Mulino will continue until October 4.
5:15 pm EDT: The two remaining Russian battalion tactical groups (BTG) that participated in Slavic Brotherhood exercises in Belarus departed to their home garrisons in Russia on September 29. The Russian Ministry of Defense provided visual evidence that the BTGs of the Pskov-based 76th and Tula-based 106th Airborne Assault Divisions departed Belarus via rail on September 29. The BTG of the 76th arrived in Brest on September 15 and the BTG of the 106th arrived in Grodno on September 21. The BTG of the Ivanovo-based 98th Airborne Assault Division left Belarus on September 25—the same day Slavic Brotherhood exercises ended.
5:15 pm EDT: The Kremlin will conduct multinational military exercises through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Belarus on October 12-16. An unspecified number of Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik forces will conduct the CSTO’s annual “Unbreakable Brotherhood” exercises at the Losvido training ground in Vitebsk, Belarus, on October 12-16.
5:00 pm EDT: Belarusians marched in Minsk for the eighth straight Sunday on September 27, despite a lack of clear directions from prominent opposition leaders. Telegram channel NEXTA called for a “peoples inauguration” of opposition leader Svetlana Tikanouskaya in response to self-proclaimed Belarusian President Lukashenko’s secret inauguration ceremony on September 23. Tikanouskaya congratulated Belarusians on the 50th consecutive day of protests on September 27 without mentioning an inauguration. NEXTA’s calls did not result in any special protester action. Tikanouskaya likely intends to maintain influence with the ongoing NEXTA-led protest movement without tying herself to specific actions outside her control. Control of the Belarusian opposition remains split between NEXTA’s focus on active protests and Tikanouskaya’s promotion of international diplomatic efforts, undermining the focus of the protest movement.
6:25 pm EDT - The Kremlin may have used its annual joint strategic command exercise in the Southern Military District in part to prepare for a deployment of elements of Russia’s Voronezh-based 20th Combined Arms Army (CAA) to Belarus. Regiment-sized motor rifle elements of Belarus’ Zaslonovo-based 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade and unspecified elements of the 20th CAA conducted joint combat exercises as part of the Kavkaz 2020 exercises in Kapustin Yar, Astrakhan, on September 25. Zaslonovo is located about 75 miles from Belarus’ eastern border with Russia. There is no indication of which 20th CAA units interoperated with the Belarusian elements, though they were likely tank or motorized rifle units, given the 20th CAA’s composition, the nature of the exercises in Kapustin Yar, and the Belarusian elements’ motorized rifle designation.
6:30 pm EDT - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has not fully capitulated to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desired Union State integration demands in Belarus – yet.
5:00 pm EDT: Russia deployed a battalion tactical group (BTG) from the 217th Airborne Regiment of the Ivanovo-based 98th Guards Airborne Division to Belarus likely on September 21. It is unclear where the elements of the 98th are operating as of this writing.
4:30 pm EDT: The NEXTA Telegram channel is actively encouraging Belarusian security service defections. Large scale defections would likely precipitate an overt Russian intervention into Belarus. NEXTA published personal information for 1000 security service personnel it claims are complicit in protester detentions on September 19. NEXTA published security services personnel’s full names, birthdays, cities of operation, departmental affiliations, and commanding officers. NEXTA is expunging personnel from the list who confirm their resignation from security services, implying that those individuals have contacted it. NEXTA has expunged five such individuals as of this writing. ISW cannot independently verify NEXTA’s information, which it claims it obtained from a third-party hack.
7:00 pm EDT: The Kremlin is conducting multiple preplanned and apparently snap exercises concurrently in multiple theaters and Russian military districts. Russian military activity in the Western Military District (WMD) is unexpectedly high despite the Kavkaz-2020 exercises underway in the Southern Military District (SMD). The Russian Defense Ministry holds annual strategic exercises to test the readiness of Russia’s four main military districts. Each such annual exercise occurs in a different Russian military district in a rotating order and usually precipitates a decrease in military exercises in the other military districts not undertaking the strategic exercise. This year’s “Kavkaz-2020” exercises began on September 15 in the SMD.