“Oktagon” found that on August 6th, three days before the presidential election in Belarus and the protests that followed, American foreign policy agencies concluded an agreement on “organising events and logistics for USAID-Belarus”.
The contractor under the contract is the Lithuanian Eastern Europe Studies Centre, according to “fdps.gov” – the official US public procurement register. Earlier, within the framework of the same state contract, Belarusian oppositionists were trained in Lithuania, and the mentioned center is the one that sheltered the opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Against this background, USAID in Belarus may soon be closed.
USA, Ukraine, and Lithuania as the organisers of the “event”
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) reports simultaneously to the US State Department, the US President, and the National Security Council. According to the state contract card, the direct client was the Ukrainian branch of USAID. The Belarusian branch of USAID is listed as the financing party. The contractor is “Rytų Europos studijų centras”, i.e., the Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC).
The work description is short: “Event planning and logistics for USAID/Belarus”. The amount of funding for this purpose is not specified.
At the first stage of the same state contract, the description of the work was more detailed: in September 2018, USAID-Belarus ordered the delivery and training of activists from the Eastern Europe Studies Center in Vilnius: “USAID/Belarus will need logistics support to bring Belarusian activists to Vilnius during several rounds of meetings in the fall of 2018-early spring 2019. The team will need support to organize the meetings/trips/lodging for the Belarusian participants”. The amount of the fee is $35,600.
The second and third stages of work under this state contract are dated September and November 2019 – with a brief description: “…Event planning and logistics for USAID/Belarus“, and again USAID-Ukraine was involved as a party to the contract. The “procurement” dates are September 25th and November 18th, 2019.
It is interesting that in the autumn of 2019, a number of rallies were held in Belarus against the background of the Belarusian parliamentary election campaign – for example, on November 16th (the day before the election), a march with banners like “And the king is naked!” was held.
Thus, large-scale actions of the Belarusian opposition clearly correlate by dates with the American “tasks”, and the August events also meant rallies – i.e., the practical implementation of the knowledge gained by activists in Lithuania.
On August 6th 2020, the opposition planned a large-scale rally in the Minsk Peoples’ Friendship Park, but the fact that it had been banned became known on August 4th-5th, and on August 6th Tikhanovskaya canceled this event. It turns out that the US in the last state contract recorded preparations not for a rally on the outskirts of Minsk, but for post-election protests.
Other tranches from USAID in favour of the Eastern Europe Studies Center were issued not as binding state contracts, but in the form of grants. The Vilnius EESC has long been conducting propaganda against Aleksandr Lukashenko and serves as support for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled to this city on August 11th. The Lithuanian Seimas recognised her as the President of Belarus. It was in the premises of EESC that the famous photo of Tikhanovskaya with the famous technologist of revolutions Bernard-Henri Levy was taken. The Frenchman himself admitted in his article for the Wall Street Journal that the leader of the Belarusian opposition did not impress him. He called her unusual and said that in addition to the Lithuanian security service, the girl is also taken care of by an activist from Freedom House – a non-profit organisation that has been working for the US government for many years.
Lukashenko has not dared to ban USAID yet
On paper, USAID, founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, has noble goals. In developing countries, the agency is engaged in reducing poverty or dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, such as in Belarus. In recent decades, the organisation has also established itself as a conductor of US foreign policy – this tool of “soft power” has been repeatedly caught in bed with the organisers of colour revolutions. USAID was a key player in the recent coup attempt in Venezuela. The agency also supported part of the opposition behind the attempted colour revolution in Nicaragua in 2018. USAID funded the distribution of content hostile towards the Cuban authorities on social networks. And a few years ago, it turned out that it paid millions of dollars to Afghan politicians to change the laws.
In February 2019, USAID announced the beginning of cooperation with the military and intelligence to promote the interests of the “national security” of the US. We are talking about the US special forces, the FBI, and other organisations. Eritrea, Ecuador, Cuba, and Bolivia have expelled USAID from their territories, and NGO offices in several other countries are in the process of being closed. The agency’s activities in the Russian Federation were banned in 2012 after the painful for the Kremlin rallies of thousands on Bolotnaya Square. The reason for the expulsion was the leak of 60 MB of electronic correspondence between the US Agency for International Development and representatives of the Russian opposition. In addition, a law was passed requiring foreign NGOs to register as foreign agents.
During the presidential campaign, the USAID office in Minsk was quiet – it practically did not make any statements.
But members of local NGOs associated with it took an active part in so-called peaceful protests.
Earlier, “Oktagon” wrote about a consortium of Belarusian and Ukrainian human rights defenders engaged in counting cases of torture in the Republic – a number of activists are closely associated with USAID and Freedom House. Among the NGOs were those who spread fakes about demonstrators killed by the police and other similar topics.
According to the “GovTribe” service, more than $7 million passed through the Belarusian branch of USAID in 2016-2020. If the Belarusian authorities consider USAID’s connection to the protests proven, they will close the agency’s Minsk office, and it will be more difficult for Washington to work with the Republic’s activists.
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