The older brother spoke to the younger one. Vladimir Putin called Aleksandr Lukashenko – two days before the presidential election in Belarus and ten days after the detention of 33 Russian citizens in the Republic accused of preparing to organise riots during the election.
These ten days were probably the most tense in the history of Russian-Belarusian relations — but all this time only the President of Belarus commented on the situation, and with each new reproach to Russia, our country grew outraged at the “betrayal of Lukashenko”. However, Vladimir Putin was silent — and called only after the Russian security services figured out the story of the appearance of a group of Russian PMCs in Belarus.
The details are still being clarified – the Russian Investigative Committee has also started checking it out, but the most important thing is already clear: we are talking about a provocation organised by the Security Service of Ukraine. It was in Kiev that they came up with and organised an operation to recruit Russian citizens, to ostensibly work to protect Rosneft’s facilities, not to overthrow him, no – but simply to cause unrest in the election in order to weaken his legitimacy. After that, according to Lukashenko, “we will bring warm Belarus and throw it on the Kremlin tower”.
Unfortunately, the Belarusian President believed in such games of Russia – and said a lot of things in recent days that it would be better not to talk about. He even reproached Russia for exchanging fraternal relations for partnership. But during a conversation with Putin on Friday, it was the Russian side that gave the same description of the message: “topical issues of further development of fraternal Russian-Belarusian relations were discussed”.
Of course, Putin called to reassure Lukashenko and tell him what the Russian security services had found. As stated by the Kremlin’s press service, it looks like this:
“An exchange of views was held in connection with the recent detention of 33 Russian citizens on the territory of the Republic. They expressed confidence that the situation will be resolved in the spirit of mutual understanding typical for cooperation between the two countries.”
Minsk reported that “one of the main topics of conversation was the detention of 33 Russian citizens on the territory of Belarus”:
“In this regard, the desire to deal with this situation together in the most serious way was emphasised. The presidents agreed to study every available fact as thoroughly as possible in order to establish the true causes of the current situation, find those responsible, and bring them to justice.”
To understand, to establish the true reasons, and to settle in a spirit of mutual understanding — i.e., not to allow a muddy provocation cause a crisis in relations between the two countries. To understand the provocation is half the battle — we still need to prevent the wave raised by it from turning the existing issues and disputes between the two countries into unsolvable problems. The most painful of which could be Lukashenko’s loss of confidence in Russian society — the Belarusian President has enjoyed considerable sympathy and support in Russia for the entire quarter-century of his time in power. But just his hint that he might hand over to Kiev some of the Russian citizens detained in Minsk (who were previously citizens of Ukraine and fought in Donbass), caused great indignation in Russia. If this had happened, Lukashenko’s reputation in Russia would have been irreparably damaged. It is clear that Lukashenko did not intend to do this — he only tried to play it very rudely, thinking that he would get back at Russia for what he considered its interference in his internal affairs.
However, now that the story of the SBU provocation starts to be revealed, further speculation about the possible extradition of any of the detainees to Ukraine should be completely stopped. This is in the interests of both Russian-Belarusian relations and Lukashenko himself. The sooner this whole story is sorted out and closed, the better it will be for everyone. In addition to the Ukrainian authorities, very serious conclusions should be drawn in Minsk. As this story has shown, dealing with provocateurs is extremely dangerous for Minsk itself: in Kiev, they wanted to do something nasty to Russia and undermine Russian-Belarusian relations, but in fact they caused very serious damage to Lukashenko himself. It is unlikely that he will forget such a “gift” from the SBU — but he will settle the account after the election.
This, despite the pressure, will end in general peacefully and calmly – yes, the opposition will stir up trouble, claim fraud, try to provoke the Belarusian authorities to take tough measures, cynically hoping for blood. But Lukashenko is not going to be provoked by any provocations — it is enough that he, who is so experienced, was set-up by Ukrainian “brothers”. There will be no bloodshed in Minsk. Lukashenko’s result will certainly be lower than the last election (in 2015, he received 83%, now it will be around 70%, and in the worst case – 60%), but more than enough for legitimacy.
It will be contested by the same people as before. The same forces that call Vladimir Putin illegitimate, and the results of voting on amendments to the Constitution. Russia, as Putin stressed, “is interested in maintaining a stable internal political situation in Belarus and holding the upcoming presidential election in a calm environment”. A Belarusian message about the telephone conversation between the two presidents said that “Vladimir Putin, in particular, noted the importance of further development of fraternal Belarusian-Russian relations and the need to counter negative trends and actions of third forces that may lead to their deterioration”.
We have all seen in recent days how dangerous these “actions of third forces” can be, especially if they are carried out by the authorities of one country and public opinion of another. The main lesson of these events should be our awareness of the great value of our fraternal Union — and the understanding that we still have a lot to do to protect and strengthen it.
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