The locals feel negative about the Russians and call them occupants.
A little more than a fortnight remains till the start of the Belarus-Russia large-scale military drills West-2017. Meanwhile, the Russian military equipment has been unloaded since last week at the Veraitsy railway station near Asipovichy, Mahiliou region.
Belsat.eu headed for the village of Veraitsy to find out the moods of the local residents and their attitude to this event, as well as to communicate with the military men.
Veraitsy is a small village twelve kilometers away from Asipovichy. You can get here either by train or by taxi through the forest along a narrow gravel road. Driver Mikalai, who agreed to bring journalists there, says:
“Russian military men are often seen at the railway station these days. As for the locals, many feel bad about all this. Mostly because there is a firing ground nearby, and when shootings start, the window glass is shaking in the houses. As for me, let them fight at their own territory! We are an independent republic, after all. What are they doing here?” — he contemplates.
Mikalai also says that he saw military equipment at the station with the number plates painted over.
“I also noticed some burp gunners crawling under the bridge not far away. Did they mine something or what?”
The journalists approach the entrance to the village. A MAZ military vehicle and a Belarusian police car are parked at the crossroads. A policeman gestures: no passing here, drive round. A column of Russian military vehicles stands right behind the improvised cordon (mostly self-propelled artillery platforms), the military men wandering around. The journalists decided to approach them later, after finding out what the residents of Veraitsy think about the upcoming exercises.
“When they start shooting, the windows tremble. When they start their vehicles, they blacken everything with heavy smoke. They put wagons everywhere, there’s no space to bypass them. The people feel strongly negative about al lthis. Some call them “occupants”, as simple as that (laughs). As for me, I don’t care, let there be exercises. It’s just, the people are fed up,” — an elderly lady says.
Apart from the permanent population, summer visitors stay in Veraitsy. Minsker Aliaksandr, who is a former military man himself, told that they shot from the self-propelled artillery platforms and the “Grads”, at the firing ground.
The place of unloading of the Russian equipment is in fact not guarded. From the side of Asipovichy, the view to the station is closed by the cordon of a police car and a military MAZ, from the direction of Pukhavichy — by a fire hydrant and a road crane. Alongside the station, on one side, the Russian equipment is hidden behind the village houses, and on the other, there is completely open space — passengers of the Minsk train, which stops at Veraitsy station, can safely take close-up pictures of the Russian equipment. There is no cordon, and anyone can approach the military men.
Next to the equipment, several privates are hawming. The journalists approach one of them —a very young conscript soldier, who introduced himself in his own way - Toha (that is, Anton). Toha comes from Podolsk, he looks around in confusion, talks timidly.
“We just got here, — the guy says, — they didn’t locate us anywhere yet, and I have no idea where we will finally stay. We are the artillerists of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, have you heard about it? I like it here, it’s so quiet and peaceful. How many of us are here? There will be many, about 10 thousand. However, the Kantemirovskaya division will not be here in full squad — only the motorized rifle regiment and the reconnaissance. In the meantime, we are unloading. The officers do not let us go far, only here, next to them, maximum — to the gate ...”
A small store where the Russians shop is located 20 meters away from the station. This is the only food store in the village.
“Yes, Russian soldiers shop here, many of them. Usually they buy cigarettes and something to drink. However, no alcohol — it is prohibited for them to buy alcohol,” — a saleswoman explains.
Two Belarusian officers are silently smoking near the entrance to the store. The Belarusian military men are meeting the Kantemirovskaya tank division and coordinating the unloading.
“This echelon arrived at night, it is not the first one here, – they clarify. – Until it is unloaded and fully assembled, the soldiers are waiting here. As soon as they do it, we will accompany the equipment to the firing ground.”
A tent is placed near the equipment, but it is seemingly only for the officers. The privates who are not engaged in unloading are walking around or sitting on the ground.
Although there is no sealing, the military men notice the activity of the civillians quite quickly. Some five minutes since the journalists start taking pictures of the equipment, an UAZ vehicle drives by, with two special policemen and two military men — a documents check-up.
“The point is, it is prohibited to take pictures here,” — they explain and make the journalists delete the photos and videos from their cell-phones. The patrol left, having warned the reporters not to take any more photos.
Important to note, the Russia-Belarus military exercises West-2017 will start in September in the territory of Belarus. A record number of rail cars — more than 4 thousand — was involved to transfer the Russian contingent. Many politicians and military experts believe that Russian troops will remain in Belarus after the exercises.
A number of firing grounds at the territory of Belarus will be involved into the exercises: near Lepel, Barysau, Vitsebsk, Asipovichy, Ruzhany and Damanava. It was also reported that the reids at the “terrain compartment” near Dretun had been planned.
The Warning Action demanding the abolition of the exercises West-2017 will take place at 7 p.m. on September 8 in the Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk.