Video has emerged on social media showing a number of Belarusian BTR-80 wheeled armored personnel carriers smacking into each other like pool balls during an accident while traveling in a convoy in the country’s capital Minsk this weekend. The vehicles were there ostensibly to take part in rehearsals for public demonstrations that will take place next weekend to mark the anniversaries of the founding of the country’s airborne and special operations forces.
The video clip, which appears to have been shot on a cellphone by a bystander on a bus traveling on the same road, shows that there were at least five BTR-80s in the convoy, along with what may be other types of military vehicles, on July 26. The bus is initially stopped, suggesting that it could be sitting at a red light, when the accident occurs.
Whatever the case, the driver of one of the BTR-80s doesn’t notice that the one in front had come to a stop, fails to brake in time, and rear-ends it. That armored personnel carrier then lurches forward and smacks the next one in line, which also travels forward and appears to hit yet another vehicle. It’s not clear if any civilian cars or trucks were hit in this accident.
It’s not over yet, either. The BTR-80 that got hit first then tries to back up, but hits the one behind it, which had kicked off the entire pileup and had finally come to a stop. The bus begins to pull away after this episode of BTR bumper cars, which has brought the convoy to a complete stop by that point.
It’s not immediately clear what damage any of the BTR-80s involved might have suffered or if anyone was injured in the process. Separate video from July 26 shows a number of these vehicles in downtown Minsk without any visible marks or obvious missing exterior components. Other clips show at least five of the armored personnel carriers, which are amphibious, driving in the Svislach River, which runs through Belarusian capital.
There was also at least one other road accident on July 26 in Minsk involving a military truck. However, this was a much more traditional incident, where the truck hit a civilian car.
The Belarusian armored personnel carriers careening into each feels reminiscent of an accident in Russia last year in which four civilian cars ended up smashed in between two Russian Army BTR-80s. The incident in Minsk, however, has a slightly more ominous component.
These armored vehicles are in the capital ostensibly to take part in celebrations to make the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Soviet Union’s airborne forces, from which independent Belarus’ airborne elements, as well as its special operations forces, draw their history, which is on Aug. 1. However, the country has been experiencing popular protests against the country’s dictatorial President Alexander Lukashenko since late May.
These demonstrations have been fueled in no small part by the Belarusian government’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The banning and arresting of opposition candidates who had registered to stand in the presidential election next month have also inflamed popular sentiment against the country’s longtime leader.
Despite the official reason for the troops being in the capital, their sudden appearance was unannounced and prompted fears of an impending crackdown. So far, those fears have not materialized, but there remain concerns that Lukashenko, who has been President since the office was established in 1994 following the country’s gaining independence from the Soviet Union three years earlier, could resort to violence to break up the protests if he feels his grip on power slipping.
It remains to be seen how the celebrations on Aug. 1 play out and what else might happen in Minsk before and after that. One can only hope that, if nothing else, the drivers of the BTR-80s now in the capital will do their best to avoid any more traffic accidents.
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