Lukashenko’s Self-Overthrow: There’s More at Stake Than Just the Presidency

I recently wrote that Aleksandr Lukashenko‘s pro-western entourage is preparing to overthrow the President of Belarus. However, they want him to take the “honour” of the deterioration (or even complete severance) of relations with Russia.

At that time, I assumed that the “X” hour would come for Lukashenko between the middle of 2021 and the end of 2022. I.e., that he will win the election, relying on his renewed legitimacy, toughen up his opposition to the Kremlin, become a completely toxic figure for Moscow, and then be overthrown by his “European integrators”, with the complete non-resistance of a disoriented and disillusioned people who do not understand why they should protect Lukashenko from his own camarilla.

Life, however, is full of surprises. Apparently, the first (not necessarily successful, but serious) attempt to overthrow Lukashenko is actually being prepared in August-September of this year. It is, of course, too early, but it seems that the Belarusian “Euro-integrators” and their foreign partners can’t wait any longer.

Western Europe, increasingly drawn into a confrontation with the United States, is interested in establishing relations with Russia. It [western Europe – ed] is not only not interested in a Belarusian Maidan, but already wants to forget about the Ukrainian one. The US is so shaken from within that no matter who wins the November presidential election, it is unlikely that they will retain the possibility of active intervention in such secondary theatres as Belarus is for them. In addition, the already declared and inevitable confrontation with China will also eat up most of the resources that Washington will still be able to mobilise.

Only local “European integrators” are actively interested in a sharp geopolitical u-turn of Belarus (this is their bet, and its failure will mean a shameful departure from politics for them), and also the Baltic-Polish-Ukrainian limitrophic system. Limitrophes, realising that the support of the west becomes in the past for them and that they are left one-on-one with a Russia which is kind and sympathetic, but who hasn’t forgotten anything, and the French and Germans, who are increasingly inclined to an alliance with it (who have their own bills for the same Nord Stream 2 and not only along it) behind the back.

It’s possible, of course, to count on the US, but a weakened Washington prefers to take, not give. In order to count on American support, it is not enough (as it was before) to unconditionally support the US. It is necessary to represent a fairly powerful, at least regionally interesting geopolitical reality, in which America, in addition to a source of free resources, would also see a promising base and would show interest in preserving the ruling regimes in the region. This is relatively inexpensive, but in times of crisis, no one wants to allocate such resources just like that, and the “pro-European” regimes in eastern Europe are falling on their own like autumn leaves. Moreover, the weaker the regime and the faster it falls apart, the greater the supply of Russophobia laid in its foundation. In general, for the profitable sale of themselves to America, limitrophes need urgent recapitalisation.

Belarus logically completes the Baltic-Polish-Ukrainian limitrophic belt. If it is succeeded to carry out regime change before the American election, the overall geopolitical situation will favour the putsch. Europe does not support Lukashenko. Moreover, the encirclement intimidated the impressionable Lukashenko so much so that he not only spoiled relations with Russia, but also completely harmless pro-European presidential candidates were removed from the race and transferred to prisons. Accordingly, Brussels will have to mumble something unintelligible in support of the “people’s revolution”. If Lukashenko turns to Russia, it will be at the last moment, when it will be too late to “drink Borjomi”. The US, involved in an electoral campaign and bound by the rules of the domestic political game, will also have to express delight at the fall of the “last dictator in Europe” (as they called Lukashenko back in the 90s). If after the election, the newly elected US President will be more or less free in terms of foreign policy manoeuvres, then three months before the election day, no one will risk even the possibility of a hint of solidarity with Lukashenko.

I.e., Minsk’s foreign policy isolation and a moderately benevolent (albeit formal and forced) attitude of the west are guaranteed. And Lukashenko did it all with his own hands.

I have said and written many times that with all due respect to the talents of American political strategists, the main role in any Maidan is played by the overthrown ruler. Similarly, on his own initiative, pursuing a “pro-European” policy, Yanukovych cut himself off from Russia’s assistance and support for the “pro-Russian forces” inside Ukraine. He didn’t have time to cut it off completely, but he tried very hard. All developments (starting with “reverse” gas and the preparation of lawsuits against Gazprom, up to the attempt to equip an American military base in Crimea) that the current Ukrainian government uses or weren’t able to make use if, were already worked out by the government of Yanukovych. The desire to preserve the “path to the west” played a decisive role in its fluctuations in the winter of 2013/14, as a result of which the order to disperse Maidan was not given.

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We have seen a similar situation with Erdogan. He was ably led to a confrontation with Russia. And when (by the way, not on his orders, but nobody cared about this) a Russian plane was shot down, the US and NATO refused to support him. Turkey found itself face-to-face with a state that it was unable to defeat on the battlefield. Worse, Turkey didn’t even fight it. Russia dealt Turkey a severe economic blow. Erdogan’s domestic political position was undermined, and the conditions for a military coup (such is the Turkish tradition, where a Maidan is unpopular) were ideal. The Turkish leader was saved by unexpected support from Russia, and his own energy and willingness to take risks. Russia saved him from being killed at the very beginning of the coup and, by all accounts, provided security for his flight to Istanbul (rebel aviation had every opportunity to shoot down Erdogan’s plane, but for some reason it was not done).

Then the Turkish President addressed the people. In theory, the rebels were still stronger. But the people’s outcry on the streets, as well as Russia’s intervention in favour of Erdogan, which they considered as an excluded option, paralysed their resistance. The generals never gave the last order to the soldiers, who were starting to surrender in batches to the legitimate authorities. Meanwhile, if to look at the lists of military and civilian officials who were repressed in one way or another after the suppression of the putsch, it turns out that Erdogan had almost no support in the government and in the army. The willingness to resist at all costs and the ability to rely on Russia in critical moments saved the Turkish leader from death, and Turkey from terrible shocks.

Now we look at what Lukashenko is doing. About three months before the election, he starts to become hysterical, literally demanding financial and economic support from Russia for the election. Moreover, this support should also look like a major foreign policy and trade and economic victory of the “people’s” Minsk government over the “anti-people” Moscow. He does not receive this support, due to the fact that Belarus has long ceased to behave not only as a part of the Union State, but even as an ordinary ally.

Lukashenko’s entourage is ready for this scenario. The fact that Russia will not associate itself with the Belarusian government, which is losing popularity and is increasingly flirting with the west, was calculated without problems. Moscow simply had no options. Even if it tried to make concessions to Lukashenko, it would be cornered by demands for more and more concessions until the Kremlin said “enough is enough”.

“Comrades-in-arms” immediately explained to Lukashenko that if Russia does not help him to hold on, it means that it wants to overthrow him. He, who knows better than anyone how many times in recent years, to put it mildly, Moscow has become annoyed and understands perfectly well that if he were in Putin’s place, he would have ordered to get rid of such an “ally” a few years ago, immediately believed in an August Russian plot against him.

Then he was shown “preparation for a Maidan”. Some Belarusian company hired a “Russian PMC” to guard the Sarraj government’s oil refining facilities in Libya. Despite the fact that until now “Russian PMCs” were accused only of working for Haftar, it is not surprising that people were sent quietly and through Belarus. The Kremlin, to put it mildly, would not welcome such self-initiated acts.

Then, for some reason, the newly hired “oil guards” could not be sent from Minsk to Turkey for several days (from where they were supposed to be transferred to Libya). And at this time, it is not so important that a lie was told to them. It is important that the intermediary company that lured them to the Belarusian territory and left them there was Belarusian. And then they were settled in a sanatorium located near the presidential residence and controlled by Lukashenko’s people. However, everything in Belarus is controlled by Lukashenko’s people (although no one knows how long these people will consider themselves Lukashenko’s people).

How the hiring company explained to people the reason for the delay in sending it not important. Plausible explanations are always easy to find for everything, and they clearly did not expect a trick, being on friendly territory.

So three dozen representatives of a “PMC” are brought to Belarus and left there for almost a week. Note that fans of Lukashenko, who are delighted with the “highly professional KGB of Belarus”, do not explain how a Belarusian firm could exist outside the field of view of this KGB, recruiting “Russian PMCs” to work in Libya, and even on the problematic, from the point of view of Russian foreign policy, side of the conflict. The simplest and most plausible explanation is that the firm that hired the PMC initially worked for the KGB of Belarus. It was necessary to lure the relevant people to the Belarusian territory.

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Further, I have no doubt that things were reported to Lukashenko approximately as he said they were. They live a week near Minsk, they are Russian, they do not drink, do not smoke, clearly suspicious. The KGB checked, and they turned out to be a “PMC”. Putin would ask if there are grounds for arrest. Lukashenko does not have such questions — his desire is the reason.

I think that it is no coincidence that Ukrainian citizens were also recruited. There is a need to get a confession from one of them. Otherwise, the KGB of Belarus has nothing to build on. A healthy lifestyle is not a crime. Russia is full of people with Russian citizenship, who, like Kirill Vyshinsky, Ukraine continues to consider as its own citizens. Kiev has deliberately made the procedure for renouncing citizenship extremely difficult and simply continues to formally keep as citizens tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have long severed all ties with Ukraine. But Minsk gets the opportunity to blackmail some of the detainees by extraditing them to Ukraine. Given the specifics of their work, the possibility that one of the three dozen fought in Donbass is great. If he is also a Ukrainian citizen (at least according to Kiev), then extradition to Ukraine means an instant sentence (up to 15 years), or a person may just “accidentally” die in prison. These are the people who will be persuaded by the KGB of Belarus to admit that they “on the instructions of Japanese intelligence dug a tunnel from Bangkok to London” (i.e., they came to overthrow Lukashenko on behalf of the Kremlin). There won’t be any other evidence, but it’s not needed.

Lukashenko is an emotional person. If they give evidence, the severance with Moscow is secured. If they don’t give evidence, the Belarusians may well agree to extradite several people to Ukraine. Since they are Russian citizens and the Kremlin has already expressed concern about the actions of Minsk, such a demarche will even more likely make Lukashenko not only unhandshakable, but even “unable to be received in Rostov” [Yanukovych was picked up in Rostov in 2014 – ed] in Russia. It will be very difficult to explain to the people why they saved a traitor who handed over Russian citizens to the enemy from their well-deserved fate.

Note that in this situation, the KGB of Belarus behaves very brazenly and demonstratively. They reported that “according to their information”, 200 militants who came to “do a Maidan” against Lukashenko crossed the border of Belarus. But they caught, for some reason, only 30 people from a “Russian PMC” that cannot be called Maidan experts. Fighting in other people’s wars and arranging Maidans are specialisations that are as different as a nuclear physicist and a physical education teacher. Leading a city crowd “with kind faces”, or even just militants in such a crowd, is not the same as sitting in the trenches near Donetsk or making raids in the Libyan desert. The remaining 170 people were “lost” somewhere and no one is looking for them, but the KGB of Belarus reports about the preparation of two more “invasion groups” (near Pskov and Nevel).

I.e., instead of quietly catching the remaining “militants” at large, as well as preparing a “warm welcome” for two more groups, the KGB reveals its cards. Probably in order for 170 people to safely lay low in Belarus before August 9th, and the “groups” from Pskov and Nevel, left from being under surveillance and went to Belarus by another route. In fact, the KGB of Belarus, realising that 33 people, even for the impressionable Lukashenko, is not a big enough force, is trying to invent another thousand virtual “militants” from among them.

In addition, since the “militants” arrived in Belarus without weapons, then, before taking them, it was necessary to find out who they had to arm, how, and liquidate secret weapons depots. They were not going to overthrow Lukashenko with firecrackers and sparklers. Even if we were talking about 30 people, we would need a fairly large arsenal, which would have to be obtained from somewhere, somehow, and stored somewhere “on demand”. But the KGB of Belarus claims that there are hundreds of “militants” who have already entered the country and are still going to enter it. I.e., weapons are required for a full-blooded battalion (no less). If you have so many weapons, then you will always find someone to arm with them. If you have only some people, and weapons are seized, then any police special forces will quickly deal with the “militants”. Thus, by loudly catching 30 people and allowing them to hide mountains of weapons, the KGB of Belarus again demonstrates the most severe unprofessionalism.

But this is hardly unprofessional. I think that several hundred real militants, recruited in the same Ukraine (possibly with Polish and Baltic inclusions), have already been deployed and/or are preparing to arrive on the territory of Belarus. And they are really ready to arm and deploy them against Lukashenko as soon as the Belarusian Maidan gathers and a bloody provocation is clearly already prepared. It was no coincidence that Lukashenko was persuaded to move troops closer to Minsk and publicly declare that he was ready to use the army to retain power. After that, it is not difficult to organise and pin the “excesses” on Lukashenko. Then the “peaceful protestors” “take offence” at the “brutalised regime” and suddenly become armed.

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The resistance of the police must be broken by the sudden appearance of a mass of armed men, which makes it possible to create a local numerical advantage in critical areas. The only task is to break through to Lukashenko and kill him. Information about the President’s location will be provided by his immediate environment. It will also try to bring Lukashenko closer to the blow of the crowd. In case the President has time to order the army to intervene, there should be a couple of generals who can block, sabotage, or at least disorganise the execution of the order for a while. In addition, the army is taught in advance that it will have to fight (with the support of the west) against a “Russian invasion“. Meanwhile, for years and decades, this army has been preparing together with Russia to repel an invasion of the west. So it is not a fact that the army will enthusiastically carry out the order.

All of this should be enough to deal with Lukashenko, and in advance accusing Russia of this. As long as the Belarusian people do not know whether to laugh or cry, the new government will have time to strengthen. Moreover, they will also declare that they have suppressed the rebellion and declare themselves “heirs of the path” of Lukashenko, “brutally killed” by “Russian militants”.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that without the effective and active help of Lukashenko himself, it is impossible to organise such a putsch. But he is doing everything in order to overthrow himself. He spoiled relations with Russia, made it as public as possible, and himself accused certain forces in Moscow of preparing a “Belarusian Maidan”. The information foundations are ready.

By diverting the forces and resources of the special services to fight against mythical “Russian aggression”, Lukashenko not only provides the most favourable path for pro-European militants to infiltrate into Belarus, but also promotes the promotion of unprincipled careerists to the first roles in the special services, who are ready to fulfil any of his orders today, and betray him tomorrow. So there should also be no problems with the militants (the Maidan strike force) either.

Lukshenko himself also organised the crowd of people “with kind faces”, as shown by the last rally in support of Tikhanovskaya. I don’t know exactly how many of them were there (5,000 or 20,000 people), for this I am not familiar enough with the topography of the Belarusian capital. But the picture is impressive even from a quadrocopter. When filming from below, it will seem that millions came out. Like on Kiev’s Maidan, where never (even in 2004) were there more than 15,000 people, but even the biggest skeptics of the most notorious opponents of Maidan confidently estimated their number to be at least 100,000-200,000, solely thanks to a skilfully made TV picture. If there were no brazen, unlimited arrests of alternative candidates, half of the protesters, or even more, would have stayed at home. But this is not the peak of rally activity. The peak should come after August 9th.

Finally, it was Lukashenko who promoted Belarusian “European integrators” to key positions in his entourage. I.e., like it was in Kiev, the Maidan will be managed directly from his residence.

All the components of the coup are ready. We can only hope that the putschists do not stick together, and they will have to postpone hour “X” for six months or a year, and Lukashenko will have time to think. In this case, the current events will later be considered as the last training session before the Belarusian Maidan. But the “Euro-putschists” are not preparing for training. Such forces and means are not simply put into a state of readiness. Already at this stage, they have highlighted a large number of connections and supporters who have “slept” until the right time. By August 9th, there will be even more. Failure of the uprising threatens the rebels with the “Erdogan variant, when the almost victorious rebels were defeated, and then massively repressed.

So the game started in earnest, and the moment of truth has come for Lukashenko. There is more at stake than the presidency – such as his life.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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