4 August 2020, Tuesday, 17:24
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What Audience Lukashenka Aimed at With PMC Detention Near Minsk?

What Audience Lukashenka Aimed at With PMC Detention Near Minsk?
Iryna Khalip

From the life of the holidaymakers.

Of course, 33 detained Russians are not enough to declare a state of emergency and cancel the elections in Belarus, even if they could have been from Wagner PMC. Their number is not enough, anyway. The whole story looks a lot like a blank political and technological shot.

In the morning of July 29, state news agency BelTA published news: "At night, law enforcement officers of Belarus detained 32 militants of a foreign private military company near Minsk. To be updated". KGB information and public relations department phones were not available, while the Investigative Committee and the Interior Ministry did not have a clue. It was clear that one dictated this phrase to the state agency and instructed to wait for updates. The information remained closed for all other journalists, for them not to interpret.

Two hours later the update appeared. It specified that a private military company was Wagner PMC. Referring to law enforcement agencies, BelTA reported that "it is informed about the arrival of more than 200 militants in our territory to destabilize the situation during the election campaign". Each had a small bag, and three more suitcases for all. They stayed in one of the capital's hotels, it was a one-day reservation - from July 24th to 25th - but they stayed until July 27th and then moved to a sanatorium near Minsk. There, they were detained by Alpha and the riot police.

The guests raised suspicions among the sanatorium administration. BelTA informs that 32 detainees behaved not typical for Russian tourists in Belarusian resorts:

they did not drink alcohol and ignored entertainment facilities. They were silent and walked in small groups. In general, they acted suspiciously.

In the same report, the state agency published the names of the detainees. Journalists tut.by found out that it happened in Belorusochka resort, four kilometers away from Minsk. The registration office of the sanatorium claims it all happened elsewhere.

Afternoon news at the public television showed the same thing, however, added the picture usually made during the detention. There were Russian passports, phones, cash, a couple of credit cards and condoms on the table. They say the detainees are being verified.

By evening, there were 33 of them - Andrei Bakunovich, a native of Homel region, was detained at home. He decided to visit his relatives in Kalinkavichy. There he was detained. At the same time, some names were available on the list of Peacemaker, that is, these people fought in the east of Ukraine. Immediately Zakhar Prilepin appeared in the Russian media. He claimed that there were soldiers of his battalion on the list of detainees and that this company didn't need Belarus at all, but it was heading to a completely different place.

Lukashenka was well aware of this.

This just seems to be the truth. No, I do not consider Prilepin shrewd and informed. It's just that Belarus has been a gateway for Russians since the mid-1990s. Chechens on both sides - separatists and feds - came to Belarus for treatment after being wounded during the Chechen wars. Many travelled to the West via Minsk. They waited out dangerous times here, too. The unmarked Russian soldiers were quietly entering Ukraine from the side of Belarus and leaving in the same way. It's the shadow zone, the absence of borders with Russia. What can one be surprised about? Of course, all these movements took place by mutual agreement. Of course, Lukashenka knew everything. Of course, this special operation was a show. But the performance is touring, not for the local audience. The local audience will not swallow this fable.

The targeted audience is in the West. Look, Wagner PMC is already near Minsk! Unmarked Russian soldiers are coming. Russia has almost occupied Belarus".

Instead of calls to release political prisoners and threats of sanctions, the West should immediately give a helping hand and recognize Aliaksandr Lukashenka as the only guarantor of independence. Despite the obvious staging, there will be many officials in the West who sell it as the pure truth. As for the detainees, they will stay in the "pre-trial" until the end of the play. Or a few days. Or maybe even months. After all, Russia has not been fighting for its soldiers since Baumgertner's arrest.

Iryna Khalip, Novaya Gazeta