Belarus

Could be an interesting situation to watch in Belarus.


I visited there this winter and the younger generation seem hugely pro west where the goverment and military is aligned with Russia. the president recently announced vodka and saunas will beat Covid, so is a bit of a character. Yesterday was a day of trouble and people calling for the president to step down. The police arrested foreign journalists and went around in vans chucking in peaceful protesters.

Could the Russians use this as an excuse to send in a "peace keeping" force Crimea style if things deteriorate?

A friend in country said last night the sirens were switched on in Minsk that are supposed to be used for chemical or nuclear attack. He sent me a link on Instagram and the stories on the page have plenty of video footage taken around the country.


Also video footage from yesterday's demonstration.

youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=8PEyBRm1Pio&feature=emb_logo
 
That reminds me I found my "Come and See" DVD at the weekend, must get round to watching it again, it's a long time since I saw it.

It wouldn't surprise me if we saw those little green men without insignia on their rig in Belarus before too long, it's not like NATO have shown any real resolve over their previous trips over the border thus far.
 

4(T)

LE
That reminds me I found my "Come and See" DVD at the weekend, must get round to watching it again, it's a long time since I saw it.

It wouldn't surprise me if we saw those little green men without insignia on their rig in Belarus before too long, it's not like NATO have shown any real resolve over their previous trips over the border thus far.

Russia already has multiple military bases and installations in Belarus, due to the "threat" from NATO.

Almost certainly Putin will move to annex "save" Belarus if Lukashenko dies or looks like losing his grip on power.
 

Cruthin1967

Clanker
Could be an interesting situation to watch in Belarus.


I visited there this winter and the younger generation seem hugely pro west where the goverment and military is aligned with Russia. the president recently announced vodka and saunas will beat Covid, so is a bit of a character. Yesterday was a day of trouble and people calling for the president to step down. The police arrested foreign journalists and went around in vans chucking in peaceful protesters.

Could the Russians use this as an excuse to send in a "peace keeping" force Crimea style if things deteriorate?

мы приветствуем российских солдат в качестве наших защитников

Pronounced "my privets-tvuyem rossiyskikh soldat vi kachestve nashikh zash-chitnikov

Meaning: we welcome these Russian soldiers as our protectors
 
Apparently Belarus is only about 8% ethnic Russian. Certainly one to watch...
 
Russia already has multiple military bases and installations in Belarus, due to the "threat" from NATO.

Almost certainly Putin will move to annex "save" Belarus if Lukashenko dies or looks like losing his grip on power.
That would make sense, there was some serious Russian heavy lift equipment sat at Minsk airport.

Interesting to see the Royal Marines were in Belarus only a few months ago, that must have pleased the Russians....

 

Zhopa

War Hero
A number of Telegram channels reported on Sunday that the Belarusian president had been taken to hospital with a high blood pressure bout. According to these reports, health problems allegedly appeared on Friday night, after Lukashenko’s meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who attended a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council.
When disappearing into the private chat with Mishustin, Lukashenka was saying "I want to talk to you about the stuff that's going on during our election campaign."

(Source: Pul Pervogo Telegram channel. For some reason all the best sources for Belarus are primarily on Telegram.)
 

Yokel

LE
Why are there not one but two threads in Current Affairs that refer to Belarus?

Not so long ago the regime was a close ally of Moscow, but a few months ago Royal Marines were on exercise there. What changed?

What would be the wider implications for NATO and European security if there was Russian intervention?
 
That reminds me I found my "Come and See" DVD at the weekend, must get round to watching it again, it's a long time since I saw it.

It wouldn't surprise me if we saw those little green men without insignia on their rig in Belarus before too long, it's not like NATO have shown any real resolve over their previous trips over the border thus far.
Brilliant film. Pretty hard to watch.
 

4(T)

LE
Not so long ago the regime was a close ally of Moscow, but a few months ago Royal Marines were on exercise there. What changed?

What would be the wider implications for NATO and European security if there was Russian intervention?

Lukashenko has always tried to give at least the impression that Belarus is independent of Moscow, and that the country is a sort of east-west bridge. Hence the low-level dalliances with NATO and other western organisations.

He has a tough reality, in that his population is probably about 80-90% pro-west; they can see the huge benefits of democracy and free markets just over the border in Poland and the Baltics, and they are tired of living in a one party quasi-soviet theme park.

However, his party, administration, military and power base are all heavily penetrated by Russia, and he is locked by treaty into the Eurasian Economic Union, a trade block that basically shackles former soviet republics to the rouble, and which largely benefits Russia.

Putin has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't regard Belarus as a real country (or Kazakhstan, or the other 'stans, or the Baltics), and that it really ought to be subsumed back into the motherland. Hence the massive ramp-up of Russian military forces based in Belarus, which has probably gone ahead without Lukashenko being given much of a choice.

Lukashenko himself is seen by the people as being an ok-ish leader under the circumstances - given that there is no choice anyway - but one party rule has inevitably fostered overwhelming corruption and injustice. Hence if Lukashenko is really ailing, then change of power at the top could explosively release pent-up pressure for democratic change.

If/when Russia does intervene to place a pro-Moscow leader in as replacement, Putin could well be faced with the prospect of having to crush (by proxy or directly) considerable popular uprising. Possibly/probably he thinks the EU and/ or NATO would do nothing to intervene. Probably he'd be right.
 

Zhopa

War Hero
Hence the massive ramp-up of Russian military forces based in Belarus, which has probably gone ahead without Lukashenko being given much of a choice.
@4(T) I agree 100% with everything you've written here apart from this bit - unless something has changed lately, surely Lukashenko has been pretty successful at fending off Russian pressure to put more of their people, aeroplanes, kit etc. in Belarus? Where is the massive ramp-up, what have I missed?
 
Zapad 2017 was the rehearsal...

Maybe, maybe.

'Belarus has arrested dozens of Russian mercenaries after receiving information that more than 200 fighters had entered the country to destabilise it before a presidential election, according to Belarusian state media.

'The state-controlled Belta news agency said on Wednesday that the mercenaries worked for Wagner, Russia's best-known private military contractor. Belta said Belarusian special forces had arrested 32 Russian mercenaries in the Minsk area and another person in the south of the country. "The guests drew attention to themselves because they did not behave like Russian tourists usually do and wore military-style clothing," Belta reported.'


 

Zhopa

War Hero
Don't you just hate it when you spend ages carefully constructing an exercise scenario set in the near future, sit back admiring your thing of beauty, and then Russia blows the whole thing out of the water by going ahead and doing it in real life?

Meduza has some interesting punditry on "what it might all mean":

Opinion and analysis
Maybe the mercs were planning a post-Lukashenko intervention after all
In an article for MBK Media and a Telegram post, journalist Roman Popkov rejects a theory promoted by Semyon Pegov’s Telegram channel WarGonzo that the Russian mercenaries arrested in Belarus were merely using Minsk as a transfer hub to reach destinations in Africa. Popkov argues that the “Wagner” PMC has other established routes that generally lead from Rostov to Syria, where militants can depart for any number of hot spots throughout the region. He acknowledges that Evgeny Prigozhin uses his alleged mercenary group to pursue both Russian national interests and personal financial gain (such as gold mining in Sudan), which could have meant that the military refused to make the normal transfer routes available this time.

But Popkov says President Lukashenko wouldn’t have resorted to arresting the Wagner operatives — a drastic step, he says — if he didn’t view them as a direct threat to his rule. In other words, Lukashenko must believe that the mercenaries were in Minsk to plot a course of action, should his regime collapse in the coming presidential election. Popkov says this fear isn’t altogether irrational, given that Moscow could have doubts about Lukashenko’s future, which would necessitate planning for the instability to come. In Crimea, Russia had an entire naval base in Sevastopol. In Belarus, perhaps it sent a few dozen mercenaries to scope out “suitable bases” and “look around,” Popkov guesses.

Patrushev and Prigozhin allegedly cook up quite the plan
In a post on her new English-language Telegram channel, R.Politik, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya cites an anonymous source who claims that Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Evgeny Prigozhin have supposedly cooked up a hardline scheme to integrate Belarus into the Russian Federation. President Lukashenko has reportedly “accepted the general idea” of the plan, but Russia’s elites remain divided and Vladimir Putin himself is hesitant to risk a major backlash in Belarus. Stanovaya also points out that Lukashenko’s apparent willingness to cede Belarusian sovereignty for his own “future security” might be one of his old “foxy-style” tricks. It’s unclear how these rumored machinations play into Wednesday’s reports about Prigozhin’s mercenaries caught outside Minsk.

It’s all a big ‘heads up’ from the Kremlin
In comments to the website Republic, military expert Pavel Luzin says Russia will likely intervene in Belarus if either a revolution takes place or Lukashenko decides to hand over power to someone who doesn’t suit Moscow’s political interests. Luzin also says Russia’s military assets in Belarus are limited, which forces Moscow to rely on “proxy” agents operating under the guise of civic protesters.

But mercenaries don’t work as sleeper cells, Luzin says, which means the presence of Wagner combatants suggests that the Kremlin already believes the Lukashenko regime is teetering on the edge of collapse. That Belarus clearly isn’t so close to revolution as to warrant such actions means that the Kremlin is actually only “signaling” what it’s prepared to do if the political unrest escalates, says Luzin, speculating that the mercenaries arrested outside Minsk were sent there to “couch surf and get arrested” deliberately.

Luzin also rejects the theory that the Russian mercenaries were merely passing through Belarus en route to Africa, saying that Russia has plenty of discreet airports. Perhaps Lukashenko even invented the entire event as a provocation, much like the FSB periodically “catches Ukrainian saboteurs” in Crimea who are never heard from again.
 
The Moscow Times have an interesting article on the arrest of mercenaries in Belarus.
Russian Mercenaries in Belarus: All You Need to Know

News media in Russia have identified a third of them as being known mercenaries who have worked abroad on various operations.

MT offer a couple of theories as to what they were doing there. The first is that they were using Minsk as a transit point for using commercial flights to go abroad. They were apparently arrested with Sudanese currency in their possession. Normally they could go directly from Russia, but the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted commercial flights to such a degree that direct flights to their intended destination were not available.

Another theory is that Lukashenko intends to use this, with the cooperation of Russia, to help fix the election by either postponing or cancelling it, or to make it harder for his opponents to campaign. Apparently three dozen mercenaries were arrested, but there are a total of 200, with the rest being still at large and supposedly, according to Belarusian officials, planning terrorist attacks.

It is seen as unlikely however that the mercenaries were there to conduct clandestine activities, such as stirring up unrest. It's not something they would be trained for or know how to do.


I should point out that the two theories above are not mutually exclusive. It is quite possible that Wagner have been using Belarus as a convenient transit point for using commercial flights, and these men were indeed on their way to Sudan. However, Lukashenko may have spotted an opportunity to use their arrest as an excuse to create a mini-crisis which he could use to his advantage in the election campaign. This would for example create an excuse for a security crack-down which could either hobble his opponents even more, or to postpone or cancel the election. He could do this with or without the cooperation of either Wagner or Russia.
 

Zhopa

War Hero
Petri Mäkelä, who I've always thought of as one of the more sensible Russian kit spotters, has posted this:

"Looks like elements of the Russian 4th Guards Tank Division "Kantemirovskaya" are on the move from Naro-Fominsk.
Situation in #Belarus is fragile and 4th is one of the top tier units for offensive operations.
"


ARRSErs knowledgeable about Russia moving stuff around (like e.g. @Brotherton Lad) might perhaps be able to share thoughts on what we're looking at in the pictures.
 

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
Petri Mäkelä, who I've always thought of as one of the more sensible Russian kit spotters, has posted this:

"Looks like elements of the Russian 4th Guards Tank Division "Kantemirovskaya" are on the move from Naro-Fominsk.
Situation in #Belarus is fragile and 4th is one of the top tier units for offensive operations.
"


ARRSErs knowledgeable about Russia moving stuff around (like e.g. @Brotherton Lad) might perhaps be able to share thoughts on what we're looking at in the pictures.
Blimey! A challenge after a third of a century. I'd say T-80 tanks, 401 looks like a T-72 chassis possibly an ARV, and 225 is a MTLB-based comms/HQ vehicle. So the kit is at least 40 years old with modern additions with which I am not familiar.

The other interesting thing is that the rail trucks are only double bogie. In my day they were triple bogie with 2 vehicles per wagon.
 

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