Ukrainian media reports began claiming Sunday that a large explosion rocked Machulishchy airbase in Minsk Oblast in Belarus, with reports saying a Russian aircraft had been damaged. Eyewitness accounts suggested two explosions in the Sunday morning hours.
“According to preliminary reports, the traffic police stopped the cars in several places around the airbase and checked the trunks and ID of the drivers,” Ukrainska Pravda reported, also citing the presence of emergency vehicles on the scene. But now there appears further confirmation in AFP that a Russian military airplane was likely destroyed at the airfield.
Secret operatives reportedly used drones to carry out the attack, before sneaking back across the border and out of Belarus. Reuters is also as of Monday morning reporting the news.
Belarus’ anti-Lukashenko opposition is now claiming that it was a successful sabotage operation which targeted Russian aircraft. The information has been revealed by officials working under exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya:
“Partisans… confirmed a successful special operation to blow up a rare Russian plane at the airfield in Machulishchy near Minsk,” tweeted Franak Viacorka, a close adviser of opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
“This is the most successful diversion since the beginning of 2022,” he added.
The two Belarusians who carried out the operation had used drones, he said, adding that they had already left the country and were safe.
Tikhanovskaya herself also weighed in, saying, “I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus & fight for the freedom of Ukraine.” She’s long carried out her opposition activity in exile from Lithuania and earlier Poland, having also recently been tried in absentia by Lukashenko’s court system.
She further claimed the aircraft was worth 330 million euros, with other opposition media sources identifying that it was an A-50 surveillance plane.
The Russian A-50U “Mainstay” is indeed a very large, expensive surveillance aircraft in operation by the Russian air force, as The Drive details:
The target here is very important, regardless. The A-50s are very low-density, high-demand assets and are one of Russia’s major advantages over Ukraine in terms of the air war. The A-50 provides general wide-area aerial surveillance and airborne command and control capabilities. Beyond this, and arguably most importantly, they provide the critical ‘look-down’ radar surveillance capability for Russia’s air operations.
“As such, not only can they generate an ‘air picture’ deep into Ukraine, but this also includes detecting low-flying aircraft which far-off ground-based radars cannot see,” the report continues. “This is the currently primary operating regime for Ukrainian aircraft anywhere near Russia’s ‘overlay’ of complex anti-air capabilities that extends deep into Ukrainian-controlled territory.”
Ukraine along with its Western backers have long accused Belarus of aiding and abetting the Kremlin’s war efforts by allowing its territory to be used as a staging ground for Russian planes, drones, and troops. For this reason, major Russian assets parked in Belarus would indeed be likely targets of Ukrainian and Belarusian exiled opposition sabotage attacks. The A-50 in particular is considered a rare aircraft within the Russian arsenal, given its size and expense.
Below is official footage of the behemoth surveillance plane in action…
If this was indeed a successful sabotage operation to take out such a large, valuable Russian asset, it’s very likely the saboteurs had help from a NATO country’s intelligence agency, perhaps with US, UK, or Polish involvement. This also given the difficulty of what would have been required to pull off such an attack on a sensitive military facility and get away with it.