7 December 2022, 12:09 PM
Real escalation in Ukraine will destroy Lukashenko’s regime, says Belarusian opposition figure
Viačorka commented in an interview with Radio NV on what is happening in Belarus and what leverage Russian dictator Vladimir Putin can use to put pressure on Lukashenko.
- The General Staff of the Armed Forces urgently appealed to the people of Belarus to prevent Belarus from being drawn into the war. Your colleague Pavel Latushko also said that he had received some information about provocations. Namely, about potential incidents on the border with Poland. What is known about this?
- They’re now creating a sense of constant preparation for war in order to draw the Ukrainian Armed Forces away from the eastern front, to create tension in Belarusian society, and tension on the border with Belarus’s European neighbors (Lithuania, Poland, Latvia). It didn't start now – it started a year ago, before the war, with the migration crisis, when they sent thousands of migrants to the border. Now they are sending troops along with migrants.
In addition, there are exercises throughout Belarus. Previously, Russian troops were concentrated in the south, now it is Beresteysk, Grodno Oblast, Vitebsk Oblast. Among the scenarios of these exercises, many are in conflict with Poland and Lithuania.
It is difficult to say what is the real provocation here. But I think it is possible that they’re deliberately leaking such information to the media, possibly to Ukraine, in order to create tension and a burden on (their) Ukrainian neighbors.
- If we are talking about some incidents, provocations on the border with Poland, what could it be? Could it be a migrant crisis or some kind of sabotage, terrorist attack? What do you think?
- It could be sabotage, a terrorist attack, it could be something with migrants, or it could be a skirmish. We see that those migrants are accompanied by Belarusian border troops very often. Sometimes these troops are dressed in civilian clothes — they could also set something on fire.
Now it is impossible to drive (military) vehicles through the forest because the wall on the border with Poland and Lithuania has been built, and Latvia is completing theirs. But they can launch some drones. We see that in recent days all Lukashenko's state TV channels report that Belarusians are learning to use drones in military units. It is possible that there may be something in the airspace.
On the one hand, Lukashenko needs this tension, scandals, this noise to give himself legitimacy and show that "I am the alpha male here, I am scary, be afraid of me." On the other hand, he also doesn’t want to cross a red line, which will start a conflict in which he will definitely lose. Because all this bubble that he is forming around himself is empty.
- What if it is the Russian army that does it? It can commit such sabotage on the border with Poland. Why do they need this spot?
- I do not think that the Russian army will do it on its own. They are coordinating it very well with Lukashenko. Any escalation (not in the information space, but in the real one) can destroy Lukashenko’s entire system. The regime is already held together with plasticine, and if the wind blows a little, it could quickly collapse. Even an order, for example, for military mobilization could be very costly for Lukashenko.
When some Russian PMCs, "Wagnerites", carry out some kind of provocation, I think Lukashenko will face a serious choice: either to play along and say "yes, these are Ukrainians, we need to fight them and I declare war," which may lead to his downfall. Or else – to distance himself, but this will mean that he has no sovereignty and does not even control the Russian "Wagnerites" on his territory. And Lukashenko understands this, Putin understands this lever of influence and at some critical moment, naturally, it could be used.
- Ukraine is also already working on a wall on the border with Belarus. At what stage is this happening with Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania? To what extent have they already cordoned off Belarus with such a fence and what do the Belarusians themselves think about it?
- I think it is a shame for Belarus and Belarusians that this wall appears on the border with Poland and Lithuania. For the last thousand years, we have lived in one state, and we have never had a border or a wall. And the fact that now because of this Lukashenko we have such a gap between our peoples is terrible.
For example, Latvians dismantled the bridge between Belarus and Latvia, which was recently used by local people to cross. Several villages and towns are simply cut off by the border.
We understand why (the wall) is being built: Lukashenko together with Putin has become a threat to the security of the entire world. We understand why Ukraine is building this wall, and why Poland and Lithuania are. The only thing that makes me happy is that Lukashenko will fall soon and we will be happy to dismantle this wall quickly. I hope that this wall will not stay there for long, but now it is needed to stop Putin's machine and show Lukashenko that he has no future.
- Regarding the Russian military on the territory of Belarus, has their number changed recently? Is the nature of their actions changing?
- The military began to arrive in late October in Belarus. There were several months when there were almost no Russian military, and in early March-April there were tens of thousands of them.
Now they are arriving again. There are more than 10,000 of them — mostly conscripts, not professional military, not even reservists, and very few officers among them. They are all kept in barracks in military units throughout Belarus. We thought that officially they arrived for basic military training, but it seems to us that their goal is to control Belarus, to create constant pressure on Belarusian society to feel that there are foreign troops.
The nature of their actions has not changed. These are constant drills, some exercises – they run around the drill ground, and learn to use some simple equipment. They brought some drones, not Iranian – it looks like American.
But at the same time, Lukashenko is exporting Belarusian military equipment to the eastern front: more than 200 pieces of military equipment have already been transferred to Putin – armored vehicles, tanks (more than 120 pieces), and missiles.
According to our information, the active arsenal, which could be used by the Belarusian army, is almost gone. Only tanks remain, but they do not seem to be preparing for any ground offensive from Belarusian territory in the coming weeks.
- How many Belarusian security forces, and soldiers help Russian forces? How else can they help Russians, the occupiers?
- They help with the modernization and repair of military equipment damaged in the fighting in Ukraine. Therefore, we are now asking the Western countries to adopt all possible sanctions against aircraft repair, and tank repair plants, of which there are many in Belarus, which carry out modernization: change optics and electronics.
They still somehow buy the necessary parts to carry out their work. Therefore, we asked the Americans a few weeks ago to consider secondary sanctions, when sanctions are imposed not only against companies, but also against those companies and organizations that cooperate with this company. It would help the Ukrainians a lot in the war if Russian equipment were not o tbe repaired and everyone would refuse to repair it. Because Russians have nowhere to repair it except Belarus. The same is with the aircrafts that are being modernized and repaired in Belarus.
In addition, they conduct information campaigns. We see that now there is an active campaign through Russian social networks that are blocked in Ukraine, but work in Belarus. These are Mail.ru, Odnoklassniki, and Vkontakte. The campaign is anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian. The goal is to create a sense of the need for war and hostility between Ukrainians and Belarusians. And Lukashenko's propaganda simply replicates, and spreads the narratives of Putin's propaganda, so we are also working now to impose sanctions against all employees of Lukashenko's propaganda media.
- Do you know anything about how many wounded occupiers are being treated in Belarus? Our General Staff recently said that there is information about overcrowding in hospitals in the border regions of Belarus. However, the Ministry of Health of Belarus published some five photos, which simply show empty hospital beds, although it is not indicated where it was done, when and what kind of beds they are.
- Not quite so, not quite overcrowded, because the hospitals there are very small. In February, in March they said that they were overcrowded, because the capacity of these hospitals is very small. Indeed, in March, in April there were a lot of Russian military, separate buildings, blocks of these hospitals were allocated for them; only loyal, specially selected doctors worked with them. Several of them later fled to the West and told the story of how they treated or refused to treat Russian soldiers. There was a very good CNN report.
Now it is not there. Now it may be those soldiers being treated there who got to the hospital from those newly drafted soldiers. Soldiers always get sick because it is a very easy way to do nothing and "get off" to the hospital – it is a sacred thing for a soldier of the Russian army.
Perhaps some wounded left there from the summer battles are being treated, but they are all being sent to Russia, as far as we know.
Now they are deploying a field hospital, which will be located where Russian troops are deployed. This is a warning bell, because it means that a new wave of attacks from Belarusian territory is not excluded. And it is possible that new wounded from the war zone will be brought to Belarus.
- Lukashenko recently called on Kyiv for peace talks and threatened that otherwise we face complete destruction. We have heard this before, but recently there have been a lot of such calls from him. Why do you think, why did these statements become more frequent, is it some kind of information campaign?
- No, everything is simpler. Lukashenko is just hysterical. He thought that there would be a blitzkrieg, three days and he would walk along Khreshchatyk with Putin as a winner. This did not happen, Putin is losing, and Ukraine is regaining its territories.
And he started talking about the collapse of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the CSTO summit (on Nov. 23). He got into saying that "under the rubble of Russia we will all be too". He is talking about himself and about his own power. This is a cry of despair. This is a cry that "I can do nothing". This is a cry of recognition of his weakness, inability, uncertainty, and fragility, which he has been demonstrating lately.
He understands that he does not control Belarus and Belarusian society. Nobody believed him, he could not convince the Belarusian people to enter this war. There is massive anti-Ukrainian propaganda, but support for Ukraine is only growing. He understands that his propaganda tools, even in the situation of destroyed independent media, still do not work. So I was looking at it with the hope that soon his whole little empire will fall and we need to be ready for this moment to turn the situation in the right direction.