Aleksandr Lukashenko said on 19. June: "Looking at the situation in the last 24 hours, I see that certain forces have intensified their activities to undermine the situation in the country. We have been observing this for a long time. But we managed to take some steps to get ahead of the game and derail a crude plan to destabilize Belarus (this is not a joke or a smoke screen) and organize a kind of Maidan revolution here. That was the goal. We have torn off the masks not only of the puppets we had here, but also of the puppeteers who are outside Belarus." Picture: Press Service of the President of the Republic of Belarus
Concerns are growing in Belarus that a regime change "colorful revolution" during the upcoming presidential election – organized by the Kremlin
Nothing new in the East? In mid-June, President Alexander Lukashenko announced that Belarusian security forces had foiled a plot to do nothing less than spark a revolution in the Eastern European country. Lukashenko stated that both the "puppets" of this conspiracy, as well as "their masterminds abroad" have been unmasked.
So far, such polemical comments of Eastern European rulers were addressed to the West, which in the 21. Century a row "colorful revolutions" in a number of post-Soviet countries, such as the Ukraine, supported. In response to these overthrows and attempted overthrows, an anti-Semitic legend emerged, particularly on the New Right, according to which the Jewish billionaire and financial speculator George Soros was responsible for this "colorful revolutions" organized and pulling the strings behind the scenes.
But this time Lukashenko directed his words of warning eastward to the Kremlin. The "Regime change" in Belarus is said to be operated by Russia. The Russian President Vladimir Putin thus found himself in the role of string-puller. The presidential elections in Belarus, which were held on 9. The elections, which will take place in August, should lead to the overthrow of Lukashenko. The Kremlin has denied Lukashenko’s accusations: "The Kremlin has no candidates for the elections in Belarus", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Gazprom banker as Lukashenko’s adversary
Investigations against top managers of the Belgazprombank in Minsk seem to be connected with these accusations directed at Russia. In mid-June, a trial began against 15 executives of the financial institution, which is owned by the Russian state corporation Gazprom. The bankers are accused of fraud and money laundering, more than a hundred valuable paintings, which they wanted to get out of the country, as well as 20 million US dollars were seized.
The background: the financial institution, which is de facto owned by the Russian state oligarchy, was run until May of this year by banker Viktor Babariko, who now developed political ambitions and wanted to run against Lukashenko in the elections. Babariko actually emerged during the election campaign as a promising adversary to Lukashenko, who has been in charge of the Eastern European country’s fortunes for the past quarter century. Lukashenko was indeed able to stabilize the Republic of Belarus economically and socially during the chaotic 1990s, but he has also come under intense domestic prere due to increasing economic stagnation trends and his mismanagement during the Corona epidemic.
Babariko, in response to the trial of his former associates, spoke of a campaign of robbery aimed at intimidating potential opponents of Lukashenko. During an interview with Echo Moscow radio station – also owned by Gazprom – the banker denied that a "puppet" Putin’s to be.
The president of the Republic of Belarus – fondly referred to in the West as the "Europe’s last dictator" The idea of the 19th century was based on the idea of a union of the two states, which Lukashenko had initially called for, and which he had to sign up to in order to run for office, but which in turn explained that the investigation into Gazprom Bank had been going on since 2016 and that Babariko had entered the election campaign precisely to avoid prosecution for economic crimes.
Meanwhile, Babariko is also in custody. In addition to the banker, his son, who acted as his father’s campaign manager, was also detained. The Belarusian judiciary accuses him of embezzlement of funds, witness tampering, and illegal activity.
The well-connected Gazprom man seems to have had a good chance of winning the election. About 430.000 eligible voters have supported Babariko’s campaign with their signatures, though only 100.The fact that he had to obtain more than 000 signatures in order to run for office. After his arrest, there were protests in Minsk, during which several demonstrators were briefly arrested. Lukashenko thus seems to be following the tried-and-true strategy of simply removing all promising opposing candidates from the election campaign before the ballot in order to achieve an unchallenged election victory against statists with no chance of winning.
Both the European Union and the United States criticized Babariko’s arrest, but it was a case of "routine reactions to the", as the Suddeutsche Zeitung noted, which could have something to do with the fact that the "In recent years, the relationship between the West and Belarus has improved significantly" . Lukashenko has not recognized Putin’s annexation of Crimea, and Brussels is trying to find a solution "closer ties between several former Soviet republics and the EU in the framework of the Eastern Partnership". As a result, the West seems to be willing to keep the routine democratic rhetoric in check.
The geopolitical balancing act between Russia and the West
However, the increasing tensions between Russia and Belarus are not primarily the result of geopolitical differences, but of the growing dispute over dear money. An important economic factor of the Republic of Belarus consisted of supplies of cheap fossil energy carriers from Russia, which could be bought far below the world market price. This oil was processed in the country’s refineries and sold at a profit on the world market. Treasures ame that 10-20 percent of the Belarusian gross domestic product was generated in this way.
This subsidization of the Belarusian economy was based on the idea of a union of the two states, which Lukashenko had initially pushed for. In the turmoil of the 1990s, when the alcoholic Boris Yeltsin had Russia teetering on the brink of socio-economic collapse, Lukashenko speculated on a leading role in such a union. After Putin consolidated power, however, the former collective farm director quickly realized that he had no leading role in such a union.
In the Kremlin, on the other hand, the plans for a union are still being pursued – and the supply of cheaper energy carriers is made dependent on further integration steps. Putin thus uses the usual oil weapon to put Belarus under economic prere. Since Lukashenko does not want to take any further steps towards integration, Belarus will have to pay world market prices for oil, according to the Russian point of view. As a result, Russia has significantly increased prices and massively shortened deliveries.
Lukashenko, in turn, is trying to preserve his country’s independence through a geopolitical balancing act between East and West. The increasing tensions with Russia are to be compensated for by a rapprochement with the West. In February, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Minsk to arrange a deal in which the loss of Russian oil would be compensated by U.S. supplies. In the meantime, about 580-000 barrels of US-ol are being processed in Belarus, which at least in the short term has made it possible to disarm the Russian oil weapon.
Russia and Belarus were in the midst of the worst crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Belarusian analyst told Bloomberg news agency. The foundations of the old relationship between Minsk and Moscow were crumbling, a former Kremlin adviser warned, with the impression growing in Moscow that Lukashenko was "encouraged by auben" become. Moscow, however, could not afford to lose Belarus, as it was far too important.
This severe geopolitical crisis between Minsk and Moscow was thus allowed to form the background of the Kremlin’s amateurish efforts to copy Western intervention strategies and to build up a Gazprom man as a counter-candidate to Lukashenko.