Political life in Belarus is becoming more and more like a Hollywood blockbuster. After decades of sluggish political “swing” with periodic outbursts during the presidential elections, this year provides variety of state propaganda: “colour revolution”, hybrid war, terrorism and extremism. Now a scenario of military putsch was presented. But in this case we are not talking just about a propaganda product: the situation seems to be much more serious.
On April 17, 2021, Aiaksandr Lukashenka announced that groups aiming to physically eliminate the ruler and his relatives were allegedly intercepted in Belarus. Among other things, for this purpose, they collected weapons. This activity was led by the chairman of the country’s oldest political organization, the Belarusian Popular Front Party, Ryhor Kastusiou, a well-known literary critic and political observer Aliaksandr Fiaduta, and an American lawyer of Belarusian origin Yury Ziankovich. The latter two were detained in Moscow by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSS) at the request of the State Security Committee (SSC) of Belarus and handed over to the Belarusian authorities, bypassing the extradition procedure.
In addition to the extraordinary nature of the situation itself (military coups aren’t every day), there are a number of points worth paying attention to in order to understand the real background of what happened.
So, in one day, four versions of the situation were announced:
— provocation of the Belarusian SSC, which itself modelled a “coup d’état” and involved the unsuspecting detainees in it (this is the expected version from the opponents of the Belarusian regime);
— the version of the Russian FSS is that an attempt at a military coup in Belarus was prevented. The United States and Poland were somehow involved into organising the “coup d’état”. Fiaduta and Ziankovich arrived in Moscow to meet with some Belarusian generals. It was the army units that were supposed to be the striking force of the imaginary “coup d’état”;
— the version of the Belarusian state propaganda states a conspiracy with the aim of an armed seizure of power, but it is not clear who should have helped the organizers;
— the version Lukashenka, who accused the US authorities and special services of preparing an assassination attempt on himself. At the same time, the Belarusian propaganda cites the alleged correspondence of Ziankovich, stating that the US authorities have nothing to do with this. Moreover, if they find out this plan, Ziankovich and his partners will go to prison for 30 years.
From the materials of the FSS of Russia, once can conclude that the detainees considered themselves political leaders of a military “conspiracy” (negotiations in Moscow with “Belarusian generals”). At the same time, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the faces of the interlocutors of Fiaduta and Ziankovich were retouched on the video footage presented by the Russian special service. Given the fact that Belarusians Fiaduta and Ziankovich could have the opportunity to verify the status (military rank and position) of their “comrades-in-arms” in the “conspiracy”, it is highly likely that there were real senior officers of the Belarusian army. Here there is a question: are these officers conscientious conspirators, or they were attracted as fake conspirators, or they were timely identified and recruited by the SSC of Belarus. In any case, it will be useful to keep track of the events in the military elite of Belarus in the next few months. Moreover, the absence of such events will also become an important sign.
Regardless of whether there was a conspiracy in reality or it was a provocation, it is necessary to answer the question why the decision to detain the defendants in the case was made exactly now (and, for example, not just before the “coup”, in order to expose the entire network of disloyal officers and officials).
Three reasons for this can be ruled out.
First, the video of Russian FSS, in which Fiaduta outlines the scheme of a possible coup, testifies not only to the fact that he was completely confident in the status of his interlocutors and in the possibility of implementing this scheme. There is no Russia in it. At the same time, it is obvious that such radical political changes in Belarus cannot ignore the Russian factor. They have a chance of success only if they are either supported by Moscow (albeit tacitly), or there is confidence in Russian neutrality/non-interference in what is happening. Both the first and the second options are political decisions of the highest level. This means that the video provided by the Russian special service is only the final meeting (part of the meeting) of the alleged performers with the alleged political leaders of the “coup”. Which should have been preceded by meetings with Russian contacts. The level of this contacts should have been high enough, if after them it was possible to start planning the practical part of the event. Without Russian support/neutrality, any coup in Belarus would be suicide for its initiators. Fiaduta could not help but understand this, setting out his plan. This means that he was sure not only that he was communicating with high-ranking Belarusian officers, but also Russia will not interfere in the whole scheme.
Consequently, part of the Russian ruling elite wants to see Belarus without Lukashenka so much that it is ready to support even a military coup. This is indirectly evidenced by the fact that the history of the disclosed “conspiracy” was quickly removed from the Russian information field and wasn’t promoted by Russian propaganda as another insidious plan of the West.
It was the Russian contacts of the detainees that became the main reason why the Belarusian regime was forced to stop the operational game of “coup”: the game risked becoming a reality after influential people from the Kremlin intervened in it.
Second, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. For decades, these countries have invested (including financially) in the creation of a lobbyist network in the West. They have made significant progress in this. Lukashenka’s visit to Baku and the subsequent negotiations with Nursultan Nazarbayev, among other topics, could also have concerned the possibility of Azerbaijani and Kazakh mediation in the normalization of relations between the Belarusian regime and the West. Naturally, on Lukashenka’s terms. Obviously, neither Aliyev nor Nazarbayev told anything good to Lukashenka in this regard.
The third point follows from the second. Against the background of aggravation of Russian-American relations, official Minsk took a decision to demonstrate the common enemies. Hence the absurd accusations of the preparation of the assassination of Lukashenka by the American authorities. At the same time Lukashenka wants to tell the Kremlin: “If you don’t want to talk to Lukashenka in Belarus, you will talk to Biden”. Earlier, the West was intimidated by Putin in Belarus if he did not go to meet Lukashenka. And it worked.
The fact that the information was made public by the Belarusian side without prior preparation and coordination with the Russian explains the existence of four versions of the event.
Despite the external frozenness of the situation in Belarus, the political dynamics remains high, although hidden from society: Lukashenka’s political future is at stake.