8 August 2020 — Moon of Alabama
In mid June we reported that the U.S. is preparing a ‘color revolution’ in Belarus. A sub-part of that operation has been revealed today. It was designed to denigrate Russia in the eyes of the Belorussian population and its president.
Over the last years President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has tried to distance himself from Russia and to get some benefits from the west:
But to get nearer to the ‘west’ also has a price. A U.S. ambassador in town means that regime change plots are never far away. The sudden attention that Belarus now receives from U.S. aligned organizations is a sure sign that one is underway.
On August 9 Belarus will hold presidential elections. Lukashenko will do his best to win again.
Color revolutions are usually launched over controversial elections. The results are publicly put into doubt even before the election begins. When the results finally arrive western media will claim that they diverge from the expectation it created and therefore must have been faked. People will be pushed into the streets to protest. To increase the chaos some sharp shooters may be put to work to fire at the police and at protesters like it was done in Ukraine. The revolt ends when it is flogged down or when the U.S. favorite candidate is put into place.
Last year the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy financed at least 34 projects and organizations in Belarus. The U.S. does not do that out of charity but to put its finger on the scale.
The U.S. seems to have at least two candidates in the race. …
Both candidates were since removed by Lukashenko. But Svetlana G. Tikhanovskaya, the wife of one of the arrested candidates, is now presented in the New York Times as the great new hope:
In the past, Mr. Lukashenko, who commands a large and often brutal security apparatus, has never been shy about demonstrating that he can crush any dissent. But this time he seems cornered, with opposition rallies in Minsk and smaller cities attracting up to tens of thousands of people.
On Thursday, thousands came out to the Kyiv public garden in Minsk to support Svetlana G. Tikhanovskaya, a candidate whose platform has consisted of one point: Get rid of Mr. Lukashenko. People waved, clapped and shouted of the president, “Go away!”
“People just lost patience,” said Nikita, 27, who declined to give his last name, citing fear of repercussions at his work, a state-run operation.
As part of the ‘color revolution’ scheme the U.S. has also introduced an anti-Russian element into the game. On July 29 Lukashenko’s government announced that it had busted a curious ‘Russian’ operation:
Escalating a simmering feud with Russia, its neighbor and longtime ally, Belarus on Wednesday charged that
more than 200 mercenaries from Russia, disguised as tourists, had infiltrated Belarus on a mission to disrupt its presidential election.
Reports of a Russian mercenary force in Belarus, which could not be independently confirmed, followed months of increasingly ill-tempered exchanges between Minsk and Moscow, close but fractious allies that used to be bound together by their shared wariness of the West, but are now intensely wary of each other.
Mr. Lukashenko has a long record of blaming foreigners for his troubles but has only recently turned his propaganda machine on Russia, rather than Western powers like the United States, previously his favorite target.
Belta, Belarus’s official news agency, published the names and birth dates of 32 detained Russian fighters whom it described as employees of Wagner Group, a mercenary recruiting company linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime associate of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
On Wednesday, the government released video footage of a nighttime raid this week on a sanitarium near Minsk, where 32 Russian fighters were arrested; another one was arrested in a different part of the country. The video featured heavily armed officers from Belarus’s security service — still called, as in Soviet days, the K.G.B. — storming into guest rooms occupied by the alleged mercenaries. It showed a number of beefy Russians in handcuffs, one of them lying on the floor in boxer briefs, Russian passports and a stack of $100 bills.
The story seemed weird to me at that time. One does not hire foreign mercenaries for post-election riots but local thugs. Such an operation would also not fit to the style in which the Russian government usually acts. The tip that busted the men had come from the Ukrainian secret service, the SBU.
Today we learn what really had happened.
The busted mercenaries did not work for Wagner. They had been hired directly by what they believed was a man who worked for the Russian oil conglomerate Rosneft. They were not in Belarus to intervene in its election. They were supposed to be guards at Rosneft’s oil fields in Syria and Venezuela. They were waiting for a flight to Turkey from where they would be transported to their final destination. That is at least what the men believed.
But the hiring was done by front men of the Ukrainian secret services and the story the men had been told was a lie.
That version of their adventure was revealed today by the Russian tabloid kp.ru (slightly edited machine translation):
On July 29, 33 Russians were detained in Minsk. All of them were christened a detachment of PMCs, a private military company “Wagner”, accused of “preparing to participate in mass riots” and to be affiliated with local opposition candidates Sergei Tikhanovsky and Nikolai Statkevich, detained earlier. Most of this group fought in the Donbass on the side of the militia, and Kiev has already demanded their extradition. Meanwhile, a comprehensive audit of Russian law enforcement agencies shows that those who decided to earn extra money while guarding abroad … were simply used in the dark.
According to our source in the Russian special services, the recruitment of the group began with a call from Syria. A certain “Sergei Petrovich” called the former (this is important) fighters of the so-called PMC “Wagner” with a tempting offer to work on the protection of oil facilities in Syria.
At the same time, the mobile phones did display the code of the Arab Republic (+ 963-931-42-562), however, as it turned out later, the number was virtual. It is not registered in cellular networks, its location is impossible to determine, only outgoing calls are available from it.
The story is quite long but well documented. People who had claimed to work for the Russian oil conglomerate Rosneft, but used a fake Rosneft domain for their emails, had hired Ukrainian/Russian veterans who had fought on the pro-Russian side in the civil war in the Ukraine.
The men were told that they would guard oil fields in Syria and in Venezuela. They received some money and were given tickets prepared for them for a flight from Minsk to Turkey. Those tickets were booked by an Ukrainian travel agency in Kiev which seems to have been founded solely for that purpose. But when the mercenaries arrived in Belarus they were told that the flight had been canceled. They were put into a local hotel and told to wait a few days for another flight.
The Ukrainian secret service then informed Lukashenko that a group of Russian mercenaries were in his country to launch a coup during the upcoming election. Lukashenko has publicly acknowledged that the information about the group had come from the Ukraine. Belarus arrested the men and the Ukraine immediately demand their extradition.
The kp.ru account has been confirmed by the Turkish Airlines office in Moscow. Several other details were also checked by the paper and seem to be correct. The story makes sense. The piece concludes (machine translation):
As a result, it can be stated that the Ukrainian special services managed to create a fake project, in which they involved 180 Russian citizens, while including in the first group of war veterans in the Donbas. At the same time, it is quite possible to admit that the entire fascinating and instructive story was brought to the Belorussian side in a very truncated form – without details about air tickets. Through this entire operation, the SBU seems to have intended to kill several birds with one stone – the ubiquitous, nightmarish and terrible PMC Wagner was supposed to ricochet on Rosneft – as one of the largest Russian companies, but the main blow, undoubtedly, on the Russian-Belorussian relationships. Not to mention the possible extradition of Russian citizens to Ukraine, which Kiev would be incredibly happy about – such an opportunity to avenge its sailors, whom Poroshenko sent “to slaughter” in the Kerch Strait.
According to our information, the materials on this entire special operation have already been transferred to the Investigative Committee, which, as our interlocutor put it, will give a procedural assessment of this “statement”.
We can only hope that Minsk will also look closely at them.
The kp.ru investigation has made big waves in the Russian language media. It will certainly echo in Belarus and in the Ukraine.
Lukashenko should beware of anything that comes from the Ukraine. If there is an attempt to use the election on August 9 to create chaos or a coup the danger will certainly not come from Moscow but from Kiev. Since the 2014 Maidan coup the CIA has embedded itself with the Ukrainian secret service. It knows how such coups are done.