Baltic States in the Presidential Elections of Belarus

In Belarus not a single presidential election (in year 2001, 2006, 2010 and 2015) has been recognized free and fair by the international community, except for the first held in 1994. Namely then Chairman of the state-owned fa…

In Belarus not a single presidential election (in year 2001, 2006, 2010 and 2015) has been recognized free and fair by the international community, except for the first held in 1994. Namely then Chairman of the state-owned farm Aleksandra Lukashenka ‘from nowhere’ managed to beat the almighty boss of the Soviet Communist nomenclature Vyacheslav Kebich. According to unwritten post-soviet rules namely the graduate of Moscow Higher Party School, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR had to become the first President of independent Belarus but not the manager of poor ‘sovchoz’, who according to gossip, several years before he became a president was beating his subordinates for abuse of alcohol and who gave a tractor to his father in law. The late journalist Pavel Sheremet of Belarus and Ukraine (he was killed in Kiev in July 2016) not accidentally called the biography written by A. Lukashenka himself ‘an incidental president ‘. However since 1994 he has been the master of the republic in sole power…
… Whose autocracy this time raises a lot of doubts as never before. Elections that took place on 9 August were unique because the Kremlin for first time in history of independent Belarus decided to remain neutral and not just refrain from supporting the candidates of the opposition but also the acting president. Valery Tsepkalo, who has not been registered for the elections, told about this to the Ukrainian radio channel in his interview on 2 August, who has left his country because of the risk to his children’s and his own security first to Moscow, then – to the capital of Ukraine.   
The need for remaining neutral originated not from good life. Its prehistory is arrest of 32 mercenaries from the private army called Wagner that is owned by the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin close to Minsk at night from 28 to 29 July. The arrest has been already and will be shrouded in different suppositions and speculations until the elections and sometime after them. Chief of Criminal Militia Gennadi Kazakevich, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus shall be quoted here, according to whom Belarusian officers were looking for another 200 storm troopers when the arrested already gave their testimonies, which were inconsistent according to investigators, some of them accidentally revealed that they had come to Belarus ‘to make revolutions’.
Andrei Ravkov, Secretary of the Security Council announced on 30 July that the access to the Internet had to be restricted in the country in case of a threat to the national security. On that day a meeting on agitation held by the presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya that drew 63 thousand people was taking place, who decided to become a candidate instead of her not registered and arrested husband, a prominent blogger Sergej Tikhanousky. The gathering was record-high in the history of Belarus. A meeting against falsification of the election results in 2010 gathered around 50 thousand people. The candidate is acting in cooperation with Veronica, wife of a non-registered V. Tsepkal and Maria Kolesnikova, chief of the staff of Viktor Babarik, a ‘banker-romantic’ who tried to run for the president and has been imprisoned together with his son. Prior and after Minsk this trio gathered enormous number of people in meetings in Belarus – Gomel, Lida, Grodno, etc. 
We should add that Vitaly Shklyar, a known political technologist, who was arrested in Belarus, whose mother lives in Gomel. He calls himself a political advisor of Americans, Germans and Russians and who was working in the election teams of the politicians such as Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Angela Merkel and Ksenia Sobchak. It seems that information can most probably confirm presumptions why Minsk dictator seems helpless against three free and charismatic women, whose actions and statements (by the way, very timely) are undoubtedly coordinated by a very professional team.   
Emissaries of the current president were scaring the nation as if protests have been inspired from abroad. A. Lukashenka himself was tirelessly visiting the military units, for instance, in the territory of Minsk unit he was watching a special training how to disperse a protest, the fragments of which were shown on Belarusian state TV channel Belarjus-1 and was making military presentations where possible. It is not worth talking about Minsk. Here on 1 August a significant parade of airborne forces was organized, even bewildered visitors of folk household and crafts museum ‘had a possibility ‘to watch soldiers of a special unit that were saving mythical hostages with bursts of slob-machine guns.    
Meanwhile a trio of women after the statement of A. Lukashenka that he would bring in the army for suppression of civil unrest recorded a video address to soldiers. A professional translator S. Tikhanouskaya gave an interview to BBC in English. And so on.
We could continue a description of similar details to infinity. Summarizing most probably the paradoxical conclusion of the Russian political analyst Leonid Radzikhovsky proved out that A. Lukashenka is totally unwanted to the Kremlin (in public space personal hostility between Vladimir Putin and dictator of Belarus has been mentioned many times), however its retirement should be a catastrophe to the Kremlin. A. Lukashenka is loathsome; however his deposition might be even worse.
However, now things are like that: although a Central Election Commission will ‘draw’ the result that is needed to the dictator of Belarus in a technical point of view, the victory tends to turn into Pyrrhic victory when it will not be recognized not only by the West, but also the East will feel uneasy to ‘do so’. Not to mention almost physically felt unfavourable attitude to the dictator inside the country. It is probable that the dictator, who used to juggle successfully with the West and Moscow, will stay without any political support.   
What in this situation the Baltic nations do. After all Belarus is an important neighbour, especially because of disputes regarding safety of Astravets power plant (PP) that will soon be commissioned and also having in mind  a significant contribution to democratization of Ukraine that is located further to Belarus and Euro integration emancipation in a ‘geopolitical pace’.
If we start from further, I should quote a military analyst Jurij Fiodorov, who resides in Czechia that according to applicable laws no private armies can exist in Russia, however ‘Wagner’ army is not a mysticism and experts of the United Nations in the report published in spring indicated that about 1,200 Russian mercenaries were fighting in Libya (taking part in active military actions, which is strictly forbidden to private structures by international conventions). The interest of the Kremlin to cause confusion in Belarus during the elections or right after them seems probable to the expert, because the ruling class of Russia does not give up hope to ‘put up Belarus under its shelter sooner or later even according to the scenario of the annexation of Crimea. The republic is in a very important strategic place of the Eastern Europe. Russian soldiers have been dreaming about full integration of Belarus and a gate to the borders of Belarus-Lithuania and Belarus-Poland. Therefore, appearance of 32 Russian ‘warriors’ in Minsk is not just a misunderstanding or a joke. The argument of the Kremlin and Embassy of Russia to Minsk as if Belarus was a transit point to soldiers on their way to other countries (they mentioned Turkey, Libya, Sudan and Venezuela) is not necessarily true – Russian military aircrafts ignore restrictions related to COVID-19  and fly anywhere from Russia with no problems.     
Thus, only silence is in the public space of Lithuania on the issue of safety. Maybe this is because of caution or maybe because of careless indifference when local ‘titans’ are interested only in the elections to the Seimas that will be held in autumn. If this is the case – it is not only annoying but also somehow scary. From a really poor list of resonances regarding participation of the Baltic States in practices we should mention probably just information V. Babariko, who has been charged of creation of a criminal group and money laundering used to transfer the ‘laundered’ funds to Latvia among other countries. That’s all.
We have to talk about simple articulation of a unanimous political position of the Baltic States, the lack of which is obvious. Lithuania that has especially big doubts regarding security of Astravets PP does not succeed in creating a coalition of allies for this electricity to be locked in the market of the European Union – the government of Latvia simply refrains from the promise not to buy Belarusian electricity. Jānis Vitenbergs, Minister of Economy of this country argued that refusal to buy the electricity of third countries would make it more expensive by 15 percent. Latvians do not have power transmission lines with Belarus; therefore its government declares its plans to buy the Russian power, which allows getting it from Astravets in a technical point of view. Because of confidentiality of agreements the recipient will not know the country of origin of power, formally there would be not a ‘betrayal’. Latvians are attracted by a possibility to take over part of the Belarusian import/export (especially when A. Lukashenka ‘suddenly’ got worried about energy independence started the import of its resources from the United States, Norway and United Arab Emirates, etc.) via Klaipėda by using intense relations between Minsk and Vilnius. In any case this is a dialectal relation – A. Lukashenka will not miss a chance to ask for preferences to him from not necessarily agreeing Baltic nations. 
Astravets PP dims the relations of the Baltic nations to the extent that the meeting of the presidents of the Baltic States in the Estonian island Saaremaa at the end of June probably for the first time in history was held without participation of the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda. The reason for not going to the meetings was indicated as the difference of opinions regarding Astravets PP.  Presidents of Estonia and Latvia Kersti Kaljulaid and Egils Levits just had to express a polite sadness because of an incomplete meeting. By the way, one of the reasons was named practices of internal politics of Lithuania.
On 28 July Yaroslav Neverovič, advisor of the President of Lithuania told about the topic of elections in Belarus in a very broad way: it depends a lot on what situation we will have in Belarus after the most significant events such as elections, commissioning or not commissioning of Astravets PP project. Our position is unambiguous – elections have to be democratic and the government shall stop persecuting the opponents. Astravets PP should not be commissioned until all nuclear security requirements are fulfilled. In other case it is hard to talk about normal relations and full cooperation with Belarus.   
To a certain extent it is annoying that the Baltic track in the important elections of the neighbour (in regards to Astravets and its Euro integration, so we were calmer) actually is quite fragmentic and limited only to monetary issues. When A. Tsepkalo came to Kiev in his letter he addressed leaders of 32 countries by asking to support free and clean elections in his country. Among those who were addressed, inter alia, was Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Donald Trump, President of the United States, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine. President of Russia was not there.
This fragment was found in the Ukrainian press; Lithuanian press was not interested in it. Thus, maybe it is logical that the Baltic States in respect to the saga of Belarusian geopolitics that is important to us, assign themselves to the group ‘without others’. We should make use of the situation.   
Arūnas Spraunius

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