The dialectical method regards as important … not that which … seems to be durable and yet is already beginning to die away, but that which is arising and developing, even though … it may appear to be not durable, for the dialectical method considers invincible only that which is arising and developing.Stalin
How are we to interpret so complex a game as that described by Stalin?
Below, Nadia Bancik has written a detailed overview of the situation in Belarus. It appears that Belarusians are losing patience with their dictator. It was a case of the same lies and official corruption that drove the Ukrainians to revolt in 2013-2014. Why would Belarusians be any different? Even the Russian people are becoming agitated. Protests in Siberia and the north of Russia led the Kremlin to a desperate countermeasure — the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with nerve agent.
In Stalin’s day the KGB arrested political dissidents and tortured them before execution. Today the FSB simply assassinates dissidents. Thus, even when using a very expensive poison they manage to save time and money. When a dissident is given radioactive polonium, or a journalist is shot in the head, the police never find the real perpetrators. They wouldn’t dare. What? Arrest your own boss?
Yesterday, Der Spiegel magazine quoted Navalny — who survived the poisoning — as saying, “Putin is behind the crime.” Of course he is! Let’s face it, the regime in Moscow is predicated on murder. Only those who cling to Putin’s fake Orthodox and nationalist facade would draw a halo over him.
However it has come to pass, the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian people have sufficient experience of their post-Soviet governments to know that the Soviet elite is still at the helm. Real freedom did not come to stay in 1991. The same thieves are in charge today. It is a case, as Anna Akhmatovoa said, of “new lies for old.”
“Europe’s Last Dictator”: CountDown Begins
By Nadia Bancik
On September 22, the “secret inauguration” of Alexander Lukashenko took place. The date was not announced to anyone, the event was not broadcast on state TV channels. The cortege was taking Lukashenko to the Palace of Independence through the empty streets of Minsk. In the presence of (according to official reports) about 700 guests, “Europe’s last dictator” took the presidential oath. The EU, the USA, Canada, and Ukraine announced the non-recognition of Lukashenko as the President of Belarus in connection with the large-scale falsification of election results and brutal reprisals against protesters.
The invincible President Opposed by a Woman
Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ruling the country since 1994, began preparations for his sixth re-election a few months before election day, August 9. All the potential competitors were imprisoned, including the most likely rivals: blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky and former banker of Gazprom-affiliated bank, Viktor Babaryko. Another possible competitor, Valeriy Tsepkalo, left the country; he went first to Russia, then to Ukraine. Other possible competitors were driven out of the struggle much earlier.
However, Tikhanovsky’s wife Svetlana unexpectedly entered the race. A translator by education, she (practically) did not work in her specialty but sat at home with their children. Nevertheless, she decided to throw down the gauntlet to Lukashenko, first of all in order to end the dictatorship in case of victory and become a transitional power. Svetlana set just three goals: (1) Lukashenko’s dismissal; (2) release of all political prisoners and (3) to announce new elections in accordance with democratic norms.
No one expected that the housewife would become a match to ignite the whole country. Of course, the country was just waiting for such a match, because Lukashenko, who ruled Belarus for 26 years like a Soviet-styled dictator (dubbed “the Last Dictator of Europe” in Western countries), made the country tired. But no one expected that Tikhanovskaya, who has been too far from politics, could inspire popular protest. First of all, “the Father” himself (as Lukashenko was nicknamed, now ironically) did not expect Svetlana to be a leader, otherwise he would not have left her free. But Lukashenko, a Soviet-style macho, would not dare think of a woman as the banner of powerful popular indignation. Apparently, Tikhanovskaya herself did not expect this either, yet she proved equal to the occasion. Her popularity grew along with the huge crowds that gathered at her rallies.
But “The Father” took all possible measures and methods to declare his crushing victory of 80 per cent. Tikhanovskaya, even according to the official results, gained almost 11 per cent, which was much more than any officially-allowed rival. Two other rivals, both men, got 2 and 5 per cent respectively.
Many voters realized how blatantly their votes had been falsified. No foreign observers were allowed into Belarus, but voters themselves observed some of the polling stations. In those polling stations (where observation was conducted or where members of election commissions counted the ballots honestly) Tikhanovskaya won, and in many such polling stations she, and not Lukashenko, gained 80 per cent. All polling stations in foreign countries showed the same results — despite the fact that the elections in embassies and consulates were organized very poorly, people stood in long lines for hours, and many, having stood for almost a whole day, did not have time to cast their vote.
Punish the Real Winner
As soon as the official preliminary results were announced with 80 per cent for Lukashenko, i.e. at 9 or 10 p.m. on August 9, people began to gather in the center of Minsk and near polling stations for protest rallies. During a similar situation in 2004 in Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma announced an additional round of elections, in which Viktor Yushchenko had already undoubtedly won; in 2018 in Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan simply left his position, losing to the real winner Nikol Pashinyan. But Lukashenko chose a different path.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya unexpectedly found herself in Lithuania. How did this happen? When she entered the building of the Central Election Commission, she was not allowed to leave. Apparently, they “talked” to her very “warmly.” First, her video message to the people appeared, the main idea of which was “I turned out to be that weak woman who cannot risk her children. Children are the most important thing. ” In this video, she was sitting on a couch which was located in the Central Election Commission. Then a second video followed from Lithuania. She urged the people “not to organize riots, not to shed blood.” But the protesters did not shed a drop of blood, and in every possible way emphasized their peacefulness. It became clear: Tikhanovskaya was forced to read a text written by someone else, and then she was deported.
Extreme Cruelty of the Declared “Winner”
The protesters began to be brutally dispersed by the police (in Belarus the police was never renamed the “militia”) — with a ferocity that surpassed all crackdowns of past years. People throughout the country were severely beaten with truncheons, both the participants of the rallies and those who happened to turn up. They were all rolled into police cars and taken to the isolation wards of the ROVD (Office of Internal Security), where they were tortured, abused and beaten. But the crowds would not disperse; therefore, flash-bang grenades went into action, inflicting wounds and mutilations, and in some places the police even used firearms.
The protest rallies continued for two more days, and the brutality of the security forces grew in proportion to the mass protests. The rallies were markedly peaceful, people were cleaning up trash after themselves. When standing on street benches, they took off their shoes. But the OMON (special police units) were raging.
Between 9 and 11 August, around 7,000 people were arrested. They were stuffed into cells like herring into a barrel. According to reports from those who went through this hell, they were kept without food, water or sleep for 16 – 17 hours; forced to stand for several hours in uncomfortable positions, and whoever moved was beaten. There were also reports of gang rapes.
A few days later, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus admitted, as a result of the brutal dispersal of civilians, that four people had died. At least eight are reported unofficially.
The dictator’s brutality sparked widespread anger. Lukashenko did exactly what the Yanukovych regime did in 2013, brutally beating up students who came out to protest the refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement. In Ukraine, this was the impetus for mass demonstrations (reaching up to a million people) and a three-month standoff on the Maidan, which ended in shootings by special forces at unarmed protesters, resulting in 104 dead and almost 1,000 wounded.
There was a similar reaction in Belarus. On the Sunday following the elections, on August 16, according to various reports, there were from 100,000 to 300,000 protesters on Minsk central square. For the first time in the history of independent Belarus, masses of people carried national flags — white with a red stripe — banned by the Lukashenko regime. For the first time they chanted the national motto “Long live Belarus,” which was also prohibited. The white and red outfits of many, flowers in their hands, gave the procession a festive solemnity, although it was still a far cry from victory.
But since then, every weekend and even on weekdays, in the evenings, there have been demonstrations of thousands. The protesters are seized, beaten, arrested, but the intensity does not subside.
By the end of the second week after the elections, the Coordination Council for the transfer of power was created, which included associates of all imprisoned opposition candidates and also of prominent public figures, including the Nobel Prize laureate in literature Svetlana Aleksievich. The Council in every possible way emphasizes its goal of a civilized transfer of power.
Nevertheless, the Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case against the members of the Council “on the fact of an attempt to seize power” (? !!). All members of the Council’s Presidium but Aleksievich were forcibly expelled abroad. One of the members, Maria Kolesnikova, an employee of Viktor Boboryko’s election campaign, opposed the expulsion. She was grabbed, pushed into a police car and brought to the border with Ukraine. She tore up her passport, jumped out of the car and went back to Belarus. The next day, she was arrested and placed in a pretrial detention center of the Belarusian KGB.
Lukashenko, meanwhile, awarded riot policemen and police officers who distinguished themselves in torture and beatings. Even the list of awardees hung on the president’s official website for several hours before it was removed. Those interested could easily write down the names — for future court trials. Perhaps Lukashenko did it on purpose, tying security officials to bloody deeds so they could not decide to change sides.
Strength and Weakness of Rebellion
Political scientists are unanimous in their assessment of the insurgent people: the demonstrations are spontaneous, do not have a single leader or control center, categorically reject any disobedience to the law or the use of force, and also do not exhibit any pro-European or national aspirations (although the white-red-white flags already indicate the awakening national self-awareness). These characteristics give us both the strengths and the weaknesses of a peaceful uprising against a dictatorship that has sunk to outright mass repression.
The absence of a single leader does not make it possible to decapitate mass protests through targeted repressions against the leading center, but also does not allow the protests to form into a more organized force. In addition, if Lukashenko suddenly understood the need for a civilized transfer of power, he would in fact have no one to negotiate with; The Coordination Council is still in its infancy and has not yet become a complete governing body.
The spontaneity and absence of a geopolitical vector towards the EU slightly mitigates the sharp reaction to the protests by Russia (although the mass movement itself causes outrage in the Kremlin). Yet, the entire movement is amorphous. At this stage, the uprising is driven by three goals: (1) to remove the dictator, (2) free all political prisoners and (3) hold fair elections. Therefore, a geopolitical vector is not required yet. But this question will inevitably arise in the future and may, on the contrary, split society; especially since there are even more Kremlin agents in Belarus than in Ukraine.
Finally, protests of an emphatically peaceful nature are confronted with brute force devoid of moral limits. That can spell defeat for the protesters, although not necessarily. If the protests do not fade away, peaceful rallies of many thousands and, most importantly, strikes at state enterprises, in the end, will force the process to some kind of resolution –which will put an end to the dictatorship. Many options are possible here, from a peaceful transfer of power to Lukashenko’s flight or even his elimination, depending on the specific circumstances. The question is not whether the dictatorship will survive, but when and how it will collapse. The Lukashenko regime’s financial resources are limited. Political observers emphasize that the special forces and riot police are very expensive; and now, at last, the regime’s resources are being rapidly exhausted.
Another question will inevitably arise: who will replace the dictator? Tikhanovskaya, as she candidly claims, can only be an interim figure — before the announcement of real presidential elections. And of the possible candidates, none of Lukashenko’s opponents, of those who are now in prison or abroad, are known to the people in terms of their ability to rule the country. All of them were involved in Russian business in Belarus and have never occupied managerial positions.
It is possible, however, that new leaders will emerge in the course of the popular uprising. People have already formed a Coordination Council, which can include anyone who wishes to participate. The task of the Council is to conduct a peaceful dialogue with the existing government. Since the Council was conceived as the widest possible body that would represent all strata of Belarusian society, a Presidium of the Council was formed.
Among those who formed the Presidium, Belarusian political scientists pin their hopes on Pavel Latushko. He was a diplomat, minister of culture, director of the National Theater and, apparently, meets the requirements of the head of the country. However, he was expelled from the country.
Is Russia Sitting on the Fence or Acting Secretly?
Belarus is much more economically, culturally and politically connected with Russia than Ukraine. Although the “Union State,” created back in 1996, exists more on paper than in reality, none of Lukashenko’s opponents has any intentions to break with Russia. But “The Father” himself has a difficult relationship with Moscow.
During his 26-year rule, the President of Belarus balanced between the Russian Federation and the West, skillfully and cunningly playing their interests. However, neither the West recognized his dictatorial methods, nor Lukashenko himself had any intention of seriously moving towards Europe. He was simply trying to get from Moscow more or less equal partnership, not allowing Russia to turn Belarus into the 91st “subject of the Federation.” This “disobedience” aroused rage in Putin, who would like to implement the “Union State” in reality, i.e. to carry out an “Anschluss” of Belarus. However, the Russian Federation itself would no longer have enough strength — either economic or military — for such a step, especially after the aggression against Ukraine: Crimea and the occupied part of Donbass, apparently, have stretched Russia to its utmost limit.
Since people in Belarus took to the streets, Lukashenko called Putin several times. The content of their conversations can only be understood from “The Father’s” speeches: for example, he said that Russia was ready to provide him with help “at the first request.” Putin also spoke about help: he “formed a reserve,” but will put it into operation only if “the situation gets out of control,” that is, “If the extremists … start setting fire to cars and commit pogroms.” Such provocations, if necessary, are not difficult to stage.
On September 15, Lukashenko visited Putin in Sochi. Political observers paid attention because the meeting did not take place in Moscow. This may signal that Putin considers the meeting less meaningful. The meeting of “colleagues” was more like a meeting between a Soviet-time party boss and a subordinate. Putin showed superiority with every gesture. He stated that he would provide Lukashenko with a loan of 1.5 billion dollars and also “if necessary” would provide military and police assistance “in accordance with allied obligations.”
But how can Putin help Lukashenko?
Russia can openly provide military assistance only within the framework of the Joint Treaty on Collective Security (CSTO), which includes both countries, as well as some CIS states. In this alliance, created in the reflection of NATO, decisions are made by consensus. It is clear that, in particular, Kazakhstan will not approve of sending CSTO military forces to Belarus in the absence of an external threat, because in Kazakhstan there are tidbits for the Russian Federation.
But the Putin regime is a master of all kinds of hybrid wars and secret active measures. Therefore, it is simply impossible to assume that he now does not interfere in Belarusian affairs, but, like in the Chinese sage, sits on a high fence, watching both sides of the conflict, and waits.
It is not yet clear to political scientists what the possible goals of Moscow are.
There are many Russian agents among the security forces of Belarus; moreover, Moscow could have sent them specifically for the mass beating of the people, because the Belarussian security officers often refuse to torture fellow citizens. Indirectly, this version is confirmed by the fact that in other cities of Belarus the security forces were not as zealous as in the capital, and in some cities they generally refused to persecute the protesters.
According to political scientist Andrei Piontkovsky, in an interview with Andrei Borkovsky on the Ukrainian television channel “Espresso,” the security forces who dealt with people in the center of Minsk were not from the Belarusian OMON (or not only from it), but from “two Ossetian detachments”, i.e. … were sent from Russia. It is not possible to verify this statement; other sources do not say anything about it. But judging by the cruelty of their actions, the security forces might not have been local, because Belarus is not that big, and local security officials are likely to have relatives and acquaintances who could be among the protesters.
If this version is correct, then the Kremlin can set at the same time two seemingly contradictory but interconnected goals: (1) to help “fellow” dictator in suppressing yet one more “color revolution” and (2) to smear Lukashenko in blood, and finally push him away from the West and discourage any kind of independence from the Russian Federation.
However, the Kremlin is in no hurry to support “The Father” too zealously. According to political scientist Ksenia Kirillova,
Despite the pathological fear of the Russian elites of any revolution, it seems that Lukashenko’s blackmail and belated flirting with the Kremlin did not convince the Russian leadership of the need to support him….
First, the Kremlin, through the mouth of numerous affiliated propagandists, makes it clear that the main condition for supporting Lukashenko is the actual joining of Belarus to Russia under the guise of “deep integration” within the Union State. However … the Belarusian dictator, even in a weakened state and at the peak of deteriorating relations with the West, does not give in to Moscow’s persuasions and does not want to share the full power with anyone, including Vladimir Putin. Simply put, the Kremlin no longer trusts Lukashenko.
Secondly, it seems that this time Moscow is in no hurry to repeat its mistake of the past years, betting on an unpopular leader and thereby assuming the public discontent directed against this leader,” writes Ksenia Kirillova, a political scientist and journalist.https://www.kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F3C3EC8E29D6
So, in Belarus the people have sincerely risen against the 26-year-old dictatorship, but the Kremlin appears to be secretly trying to suppress the uprising. At the same time, the Kremlin has not yet decided what to do with Lukashenko, as the people’s peaceful revolution is more frightening than the untrustworthy dictator. However, the regime, as well as Russia, has limited resources, and the people of Belarus are set for a long struggle. When the protesters can convince the security forces to switch sides, then, most likely, the regime will fall. However, a bloody end is also possible as Lukashenko does not have moral boundaries. At any rate, his regime will not last long, though it is impossible to predict exactly how it will fall.