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What is Lukashenko afraid of and should Kyiv expect Russian troops to attack through Belarus?

Photo: president.gov.by

Photo: president.gov.by

It is difficult to say about any dictator and tyrant like a wooden Buratino hanging upside down whether "the patient is alive or not". Physiologically, supposedly, yes, but the personality of such a tyrant has long since died. Anyway, if without sophistry, it is about Alexander Lukashenko—a person who calls himself the President of Belarus, although his victory in the last elections is not recognized by civilized countries. Lukashenko decided to play it safe and impose certain preventive measures—in case he passes from his current dead state into even deader.


What happened?

More specifically, it is about a document signed on May 9 and published on May 10 that Lukashenko himself announced as the crowning achievement of his long-term rule. This document regulates the actions of the authorities in the case of the head of state violent death.

The title of the opus is short, but pompous: "On the protection of sovereignty and constitutional order." The preamble says that Lukashenko signed the document, realizing his responsibility to "the current and future generations of citizens of the country for preserving the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, ensuring its national security and territorial integrity, peace and tranquility, protecting people's life and health in the face of global challenges and threats."

According to Lukashenko’s decree, in the case of the president of the republic death as a result of an attempt upon his life, the commission of a terrorist act, as a result of external aggression or other violent actions, a state of emergency or martial law "is imposed in the country immediately on the basis of the Security Council decision".

After that, all government agencies, organizations, and citizens act according to the decisions of the Security Council. And those leaders who do not obey this decision, the Security Council has the right to dismiss and replace. This agency adopts its decisions by secret ballot by a majority, but not less than two-thirds of the votes of the permanent members. The Prime Minister presides over the Security Council meetings.

Interestingly, the first mention of the decree was made on April 17. Lukashenko, announcing the document, called it "one of the most principled decisions during a quarter of a century of presidency." The decree should define "how the power in Belarus will be organized" if Alyaksandr Lukashenko is suddenly gone. "The main goal is to prevent "them" from gaining power even in this case," Lukashenko noted. But he didn’t tell the most interesting thing and did not specify who "they" are.

Because Lukashenko is a mercurial man and changes his opinion about his enemies all the time. At the beginning of his last election campaign, according to the version of the authorities, Russia had its eyes on the sovereignty of Belarus and sent PMC Wagner' supporters here. Then Poland wanted to seize Belarus with the support of NATO forces. Later still, the leaders of the protests, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Pavel Latushko, were declared terrorists.

Finally, according to the latest version, US President Joe Biden personally ordered to kill Lukashenko and hired a literary critic and publicist, Lukashenko's former associate Alexander Fedut, and also Yuri Zenkovich (a lawyer who now lives in the United States), leader of the opposition party Belarusian Popular Front Grigory Kostusev, and several Belarusian emigrants.

Reacting to the decree, Belarusian experts said that it contradicted the Constitution of the country, article 89 of which says that if the president is unable to fulfill his duties, power passes to the prime minister. For instance, presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya argued that the decree was the result of protests that made Lukashenko think about leaving his post.

Let's accept Tikhanovskaya's version as a working one (albeit unlikely one) and see what Ukrainian political scientists, with whom The Page spoke, think about this.

"Batska’s" phobias, passaging "between the drops" and chest-thumping

Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for Extremism Studies, thinks that Lukashenko is simply enhancing his reputation. And also—he cadges sympathy, and that is very typical for our establishment that sometimes likes to appear in public in a wheelchair and under a checkered blanket.

"Lukashenko imposes on the society the idea of his importance. Because the entire algorithm for the power transfer should be spelled out in the constitution of Belarus at the stage of formation of the presidency (in fact, it is there). This is point one. And point two, Lukashenko wants to emphasize that all attempts against him are real. And that those Belarusians who support Lukashenko (and there are even his sincere supporters) should be afraid of losing him and stability in the country."

Bohdan Petrenko

Bohdan Petrenko

Political analyst

And to a clarifying question about how the Kremlin reacts to this performance, he answers as follows: Russia is playing along with Lukashenko. Even though he is not cooperative in that full and deep way that Moscow would like, he is a long-standing, understandable, convenient and quite predictable partner, the expert explains.

«The same cannot be said about Lukashenkо's successor, whoever it may be. Although it is clear that this person is also oriented towards Russia, but perhaps not to the same extent as the current president. After taking the oath of office by the new president, unpleasant surprises for the Kremlin are not excluded.»

Bohdan Petrenko

Bohdan Petrenko

Political analyst

Director of the Institute of World Policy Yevhen Magda sees the situation somewhat differently.

"Lukashenko since August last year, since the presidential elections, where he was declared the winner with a result too far from reality, feels himself in an unpleasant situation. On the one hand, the West has shown that it will not do business with him. On the other hand, he hardly wants to be completely subordinate to Putin. He is looking for opportunities (to the best of his abilities) to remain formally independent, but at the same time follow in the wake of Russia."

Yevhen Magda

Yevhen Magda

Director of the Institute of World Policy

Well, in translation into Ukrainian it is called "to pass between the drops". Although the author of this famous expression, the first president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, was, of course, much more subtle and flexible politician than the straightforward "batska" of Belarusians.

«Remember that Putin in his message recalled the alleged attempt on Lukashenko's life. And now Lukashenko is acting in this direction. He allegedly uncovered the assassination attempt, and it is lots to be said about it, but it is clear that it is about an operation of the special services, that is, there is nothing new here. Lukashenko is trying to defend himself, but he is too deeply bogged down in dependence on Russia. The problem for Ukraine is that whoever replaces Lukashenko in office, the new president will also be pro-Russian. Even if he passes as a candidate from the democratic opposition.»

Yevhen Magda

Yevhen Magda

Director of the Institute of World Policy

However, we will simulate the situation "what will happen if Lukashenko does disappear" a little later. In the meantime—the third and last version of what is happening, from the political scientist Kyrylo Sazonov.

"Lukashenko is afraid that he will be helped to die. And this will be done by his Russian friends, who will then help to transfer power to the Prime Minister, who is more loyal than Lukashenko, for the quick and successful integration of Belarus into Russia. Therefore, Lukashenko is trying to put things together in such a way that in the case of his death none of the beneficiaries of this event would receive their portion of preferences. To be more profitable alive than dead."

Kyrylo Sazonov

Kyrylo Sazonov

political scientist

He adds that for the West, after the Belarusian elections were not recognized there, Lukashenko became a completely unacceptable figure. Moreover, he has become an unacceptable player not only for Europe, but also for its neighbors, in particular, Ukraine.

"In his country, he still retains power, and really wants to consolidate it, without sacrificing all of it to the Kremlin. And the Kremlin, meanwhile, is trying to get certain bonuses right now, especially before the elections to the State Duma. To this end, Lukashenkj confuses the situation as much as possible, recalling both the NSDC and the state of emergency.’

Kyrylo Sazonov

Kyrylo Sazonov

political scientist

About the Kremlin's profit and the threat to Ukraine

The mentioned elections to the State Duma of Russia will take place in September 2021. At the time of their holding, it is extremely important for the Kremlin to strengthen the image of a "land gatherer". Therefore, as reported by the Russian media, the polling stations will also be open in ORDLO (temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine) for the "new Russians", that is, for the inhabitants of the occupied territories.

Another "binding force" is meant for Belarus. This state should fall into Putin's arms by autumn and complete the process of creating a joint confederation with the RF. And if Lukashenkj turns out to be incapable of this, he will be replaced by another pawn, more negotiable.

"A joint union state will be discussed again in the fall, during the elections to the State Duma. The Kremlin will need proof that Russia is capable of carrying out such unions and reviving the USSR, at least with two participants. But in fact, there are big doubts that this project will be implemented."

Yevhen Magda

Yevhen Magda

Director of the Institute of World Policy

However, if there is a person who wants to implement Putin's whim in exchange for the opportunity to become the Russian governor in Minsk, then why not?—Sazonov retorts.

«It is clear that in Belarus all politicians are loyal to the Kremlin, but at the same time, everyone may want to play their game. Therefore, the person who will become acting President of the Republic of Belarus, can be promised any support—media, organizational, etc.. And this person will exchange any concessions beneficial to Russia for the opportunity to take the helm for life.»

Kyrylo Sazonov

Kyrylo Sazonov

political scientist

Moreover, "people in uniform" will directly influence the course of the elections and the result-setting. If Lukashenko is gone, there will be an interesting collision, Sazonov says: according to the law, power should be transferred to the head of the government, and according to Lukashenkj's decree—to the local analogue of our NSDC.

Thus, there will be two centers of power, but, by and large, the decision will be made by the power structures—the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the KGB, and the army.

Quote"Whoever they put their bets on will become the president. And the opinion of the people here, of course, will not play any role," the expert is sure.

But even if vox populi had any influence, there is no one to choose from in Belarus.

"Even the current democratic opposition in Belarus is still heading for Russia. Or, at best, to be a kind of bridge between Belarus and the West. The same Tikhanovskaya relies on the West quite involuntarily."

Bohdan Petrenko

Bohdan Petrenko

Political analyst

The course of the presidential elections in Belarus would be difficult, Magda notes.

"There is no party system, no private capital (as we know it in Ukraine), but enterprises have deputies in ideology and the like. It will rather resemble the elections in the Soviet Union during perestroika."

Yevhen Magda

Yevhen Magda

Director of the Institute of World Policy

But for Ukraine, the problem is not that there is no political competition in Belarus. It's just that Belarus will be largely lost for us. If until 2020 all talks about possible aggression from Belarus as well looked more like "jumpscare", now it is possible that Lukashenkj may succumb to pressure and yield to the interests of Russia in this regard, the expert adds.

Here we mean an increase in the likelihood of the Russian troops attacking Ukraine and the Baltic countries through the territory of Belarus—at least in the beginning of spring this possibility was actively discussed in expert circles, referring, in particular, to the Estonian foreign intelligence service.

So Ukraine's neighbors were twice unlucky. But that is another story.

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