The fate of West-2017 military exercises could have been completely different.
Yesterday while studying the map of Belarus to find the very Novy Dvor village a 10-year old Maksim Markhalyuk came from, I suddenly found out that those places were in close vicinity to Ruzhany and Damanava training areas. Novy Dvor village is 50 km away from the Ruzhany training area. And 100 km away from Damanava. Only. At the time when the child disappeared, the exercises West-2017 were held at these training areas. Russian and Belarusian military showed amusing battles. And volunteers of the Angel detachment, and servicemen combed the forest nearby.
Believe me, I admire not only the "Angels" who have been combing forests for two weeks, going to the Novy Dvor from other areas, spending time, money, and sometimes losing their jobs being not able to come back on time. I take a hat off to employees of the Emergency Control Ministry who have been looking for Maksim during working hours and keep doing it when their working hours are over. I bow to policemen and military men who participate in the search. I take a low bow to village dwellers and teachers of the local school who were wandering through the forest all night long. In fact, I consider the chief of the Angel rescue team Siarhei Kovhan a real hero of our time. Let everyone who is looking for a gone missing boy will be happy.
I do not mean those mentioned above - they are worth long talks, high praises. I'd like to talk about these damn training areas. And about those who ran West-2017 demonstrative exercises. About those who invented all that stupid scenarios like the attack of Vejshnoriya. About those who flew to training areas on their own helicopters expressing interest in maneuvers.
According to official data, almost 13 thousand military men of Belarus and Russia took part in exercises on our territory. In reality, this figure is even more, but this is not the point. Let's believe these official figures. It turns out that 13 thousand people participated in demonstrative maneuvers and were out of ordinary duty. A half of those people could have been involved in the search of the boy. They are well-equipped, prepared for speed marches, they could comb the territory within a day. Every inch of it. The chief of the Angel told that time was neither on the side of the gone missing nor those who conducted the search. The involvement of soldiers would have allowed to move on.
I mean that the forest combing could have taken much less time and the search could have been carried out in other directions. It's a wishful thinking, but what if it could help to overcome natural challenges - wild animals, weather, potential criminals?
Then the fate of West-2017 military exercises could have been completely different. There wouldn't have been any posters with inscriptions "Russian soldier, go home" in our cities. There wouldn't have been fears, anxiety for the country, disgust at any mention of "green men". They would have been accompanied with songs and loaf of bread, hugs and kisses, called brothers and asked over. The search for one little boy could have changed the attitude of the whole world to the of the "West" exercises.
The Maksim's story increasingly recalls the tragedy of Kursk submarine. For a few days the Kursk crew was dying under the water, Vladimir Putin spent all that time in Sochi, and only eight days later when the Kursk ceased going on the air, Russia graciously allowed the Norwegian Seaway Eagle ship to open the aft rescue hatch. To take away bodies. And before that both the Norwegians and the Danes offered help. Russian divers even took a rally in Moscow and demanded to send them to save the "Kursk". (The waters of the Barents Sea are not the Bialowieza forest. It is extremely hard to get there).
But the commander-in-chief took a rest then. And the local one has learned to press buttons of a mobile command post and expressed gratitude.
He does not care. The main thing is to be handsome, elegant and with rhinestones.
Iryna Khalip for Charter97.org