Televisions, electric scooters, car batteries, fishing gear … In the video images, it is a real ballet of looted, sometimes unusual things. The organization is well established. Soldiers are at post offices in the town of Mazir, southern Belarus, about thirty kilometers from the Ukrainian border. Then they send the packed looted goods back to their home regions in Russia. In one day, more than two tons of items stolen by Russian forces in Ukraine passed through a small post office bound for Russia. These wonderful photos dated the afternoon of April 2 were recovered and posted on social media by project activists.”Belarusian Hagon“.
During the three hours of the video, which has now garnered more than a million views, Russian soldiers follow each other. Some bear the coat of arms of the 56th Air Assault Regiment of the Russian Armed Forces. In the background, boxes and suitcases pile up in the room. Soldiers log into the office one by one, allowing their names, addresses, and the types of items shipped to be heard. Parcels, ranging from 40 to 450 kilograms, are sent to Russia via the Russian express delivery service SDEK, which serves 36,000 locations in the country. Most of them go to the Altai regions of southern Siberia, where most of the soldiers in the video belong.
In recent weeks, Belarus appears to have become a hub for looted items in Ukraine, from civilian apartments as well as from shops. However, looting is prohibited under international law and considered a war crime. Alcohol bottles, electronic equipment, jewelry … even children’s toys, all merchandise can attract greed. Testimonies are pouring in the Ukrainian media and social networks. like a journalist Anastasia Lapatinawho recounts the looting of his family’s home:They took her mother’s computer, all her shoes, and her camera – a gift from her father, who died in 2017. God knows what else they took. Imagine a place where you grew up and where your best moments went that way.»
After interrupting conversations of Russian soldiers detailing the looting in Ukraine over the phone with their relatives, Ukrainian intelligence services confirmed in early April that markets were appearing in Belarusian towns, so that soldiers could sell goods. You don’t want to send it home. In the small town of Mazyr, Ukrainian intelligence services spotted Russian military trucks. They regularly moved back and forth between Ukraine and Belarus, so that the soldiers would unload the looted things.
We will never forgive
As for the soldiers present in the April 2 photos, they can be identified thanks to facial recognition tools such as the Russian program FindClone. The intelligence services and activists revealed their personal details at a later time. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mikhailo Fedorov has made digital tools his hobby 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, and then sent all the loot to their families.”
But the presence of Russian soldiers in Mazir may be just the tip of the iceberg of looting in Ukraine. Other regions where Russians operate, such as the south of the country, could also be affected. Currently, it is difficult to verify the exact origin of things and the fact that these war crimes can be the result of an organized system that goes beyond individual practices.