Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has instructed the government in Minsk to create a militia in order to expand the armed forces and deter outside meddling, Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said on Friday. Lukashenko has already announced the creation of a southern military command on the border with Ukraine.
Among other things, Lukashenko has tasked the military with “creating a people’s militia in our country,” Khrenin said on Friday, speaking at a meeting of governors and military commissioners of Belarusian regions. After the matter is discussed with the governors, it will be regulated by law, Khrenin added, after which the numerical strength of the Belarusian armed forces will increase “many times.”
“We see this as very necessary,” said Khrenin. “The most important thing is that we have both people and weapons for this.” Belarus is currently estimated to have around 60,000 active-duty soldiers and a reserve of up to 340,000.
People’s militia (narodnoe opolcheniye) has a long tradition in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine going back to medieval times. The 400,000-strong militia played a key role in defeating Napoleon’s invasion in 1812. The most recent use of the mass levy was during the Second World War.