Televisions, electric scooters, car batteries, fishing equipment… On the video images, it is a veritable ballet of looted objects, sometimes unusual. The organization is well established. The soldiers present themselves at post offices in the town of Mazyr, in the south of Belarus, about thirty kilometers from the Ukrainian border. Then they send the looted goods packaged to their regions of origin in Russia. On a single day, more than two tons of objects stolen in Ukraine by Russian forces transited through a small post office, heading for Russia. These impressive images dated the afternoon of April 2, were recovered and published on social networks by activists of the project “Belarusian Hajun“.
During the three hours of video, which now counts more than a million views, the Russian soldiers follow one another. Some bear the coat of arms of the 56th Air Assault Regiment of the Russian Armed Forces. In the background, boxes and bags pile up in the room. One by one, servicemen check into the office, allowing their names and addresses and the types of items being shipped to be heard. The packages, which range from 40 to 450 kilos, are sent to Russia via the Russian express delivery service SDEK, which serves 36,000 locations in the country. The majority go to the Altai territories in southern Siberia, where most of the soldiers in the video are from.
In recent weeks, Belarus seems to have become the hub of objects looted in Ukraine, from civilian apartments as well as from shops. Yet looting is outlawed by international law and is considered a war crime. Bottles of alcohol, electronic equipment, jewelry… even children’s toys, all goods can attract covetousness. In the Ukrainian media and on social networks, testimonies are pouring in. Like that of the journalist Anastasia Lapatinawho recounts the looting of his family home:They took mum’s computer, all her shoes, her camera – a gift from dad, who died in 2017. God knows what else they took. Imagine a place where you grew up and had your best moments trashed like this.»
After having intercepted conversations of Russian soldiers who detailed the loot looted in Ukraine by telephone to their relatives, the Ukrainian intelligence services had assured in early April that markets were emerging in Belarusian towns, so that the soldiers could sell the goods. stolen that they do not want to send home. In the small town of Mazyr, Russian military trucks were observed by Ukrainian intelligence services. They would regularly go back and forth between Ukraine and Belarus, so that the soldiers unload the looted objects.
“We will never forgive”
As for the soldiers present in the images of April 2, they could be identified thanks to facial recognition tools such as the Russian software FindClone. Their personal details were later exposed by intelligence services and activists. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov has made digital tools his hobbyhorse to put pressure on Russia. He said on Facebook: “Technology makes it possible to find everyone. We will never forgive. They robbed and killed civilians, after that they sent all the loot to their families.”
But the presence of Russian soldiers in Mazyr may be just the tip of the iceberg of plunder in Ukraine. Other regions where the Russians operate, such as the south of the country, could also be affected. For the moment, it is difficult to certify the exact origin of the objects and the fact that these war crimes can be the result of an organized system beyond individual practices.