Final “Yelbascization” of Aliaksandr Lukashenka

As for the term: the long-standing leader of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev (presidency 1990-2019), has finally been awarded the title of Father of the Nation (Yelbasy in Kazakh).

After the protests at the turn of the year in Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev is no longer just Yelbasy – according to the customs of the Central Asian region, albeit in a not-so-Turkmen or Tajik style, the “father of the nation” has de facto transformed himself from an unconditionally sole leader into nobody.

Also – by association – back to the topic. The dictator of Russia Vladimir Putin is credited with the phrase at the “all-people” press conference held on 23 December that Kazakhstan is a Russian-speaking country in the true sense of the word.

To which “still Yelbasy” nevertheless dared to retort: ‘Some people in the north want to restore the USSR. Isn’t it still clear that this is impossible?’

For Aliaksandr Lukashenka, everything seems to have gone perfectly in recent months.

The Belarusian dictator has been visibly reinvigorated in the context of the bloody crackdown on protesters in Kazakhstan.

On 7 January, his press service reported his patron’s all-night conversation with the now-departed (withdrawn?) Nursultan Nazarbayev who also discussed with Vladimir Putin at night whether or not to bring in troops from the Kremlin-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation to Kazakhstan (of course he did).

The day before, he encouraged Kazakhs to ask for the dismissal of the power structure officials who had fired live ammunition at them on their knees.

As if listening to his Belarusian “colleague”, the new President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, on 7 January ordered law enforcement officers and the army to fire on protesters without any warning.

Prosecutor General Office of Kazakhstan admitted that at least 225 people were killed during the protests in early January. In an interview with the state TV channel Khabar 24 on 29 January, Kassym-Jomart Tokayaev declared, in the style of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, that there was no need for an international investigation into the January incident.

In his annual address on 28 January, Vladimir Putin’s troubadour Aliaksandr Lukashenka threatened that if a war broke out with Ukraine; the Baltic countries would lose their statehood and would not develop. Poland and Lithuania, without the support of the United States, will forever remain a periphery of Europe.

It should be recalled that Aliaksandr Lukashenka belongs to the category of officials who voice what the President of Russia is thinking “for the time being”. That is why he is a troubadour.

The frankly cynical press conference between Vladimir Putin and Aliaksandr Lukashenka on 8 February was full of accusations (“unison”) against the West as a whole and Ukraine in particular.

Immediately after the conference, Chairman of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin accused Kiev of provoking a major war by shelling civilians in the separatist east of Ukraine.

The exercises of Strategic Interception Forces in Russia, which ended on 19 February and involved the air-space forces, the Southern Military District, the Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern and Black Sea navies, was watched by Vladimir Putin and Aliaksandr Lukashenka from the Kremlin Situation Centre.

And because all the ballistic cruise missiles hit where they were aimed, according to the Kremlin’s website.

Finally, we have what we have.

After all, there was almost complete silence from the Belarusian side. Only shy ‘slips’ of the dictator into the ether, in no way comparable to the belligerently heroic posturing, the enthusiastic public dissipation in January-February.

From the point of view of  public relations, the referendum in Belarus on 27 February on the amendments to the Constitution, which was held on 27 February, was a very plain affair, and of course won by an easily predicted 82.86% (or else), allowing the dictator to remain in power for another 13 years.

This is not typical to Aliaksandr Lukashenka. He even managed without pompous and hardly any public appearances at all on the occasion of his victory.

Maybe he is bored? Aliaksandr Lukashenka began to ‘impose’ the country’s constitution on him personally by referendum in 1996, immediately after he came to power.

In 2004, another referendum was held on the same issue, removing the position limiting the presidency to two terms from the main document of the country.

The dictator continues to rule by “collecting” the elections he supposedly won in 2001, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2020. He has already been in power for the longest period in Eurasia (except for monarchs) – 27 years.

On 9 March, we learned from the Belarusian state news agency BelTA that the dictator had pardoned several women convicted of prostitution before the rigging of the last presidential elections. The agency did not specify how many.

Four female prisoners who left the Gomel women’s colony (of which there are two in Belarus) are shown in public, including 20-year-old Anastasia Yaroshevich, a resident of Lida, who, according to the Belarusian human rights centre Viasna Human Rights Centre, has been sentenced to two years in prison for ripping off the caps of two officers and hitting one of them on the head in an attempt to prevent the police from arresting a male protester.

Then there is Natalia Turova from Brest, imprisoned for two years and one month for insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka. She “made” an insult on 27 May 2021, when police officers showed up at her house.

Lyudmila Kuznetsova, 54 years old, was sentenced to two years in prison, also for insulting the dictator. The name of the fourth woman shown is not Alla.

It should be recalled that there are many convicted female political prisoners in Gomel. For example, Katsyaryna Andreeva and Darya Khultsova, journalists for the TV channel Belsat, who were destroyed by the dictator. There is also the icon of the protests against the presidential elections, Maria Kalesnikava, a member of the Belarusian opposition coordination committee, who was imprisoned by the regime for 11 years.

Despite the “restrained” pardon in all senses (including public relations), Belarus still has over a thousand political prisoners.

On the same day, Ukrainian intelligence made public data on the reluctance of the majority of the Belarusian military to fight on Moscow’s side against the Ukrainians. This reluctance was revealed by a non-public anonymous survey conducted by the Belarusian Ministry of Defence.

The news of the resignation of General Viktor Gulevich, Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian army, was reported not only in the Belarusian public sphere in the evening.

The Ukrainian journalist Andriy Tsaplienko, who was the first to report the news on 6 March, pointed out, however, that the General should have thought and decided earlier, when he was still at war with Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps in the suggestion of the latter two facts, Aliaksandr Lukashenka the next day no longer “in unison”, but “painfully” complained that some forces (without naming them specifically, which is probably prudent) were pushing his country into war with Ukraine. But the Belarusians will die on their own soil.

It is hard to say on their own soil, because just the other day an appeal to their compatriots was published on the Internet by the Belarusian volunteers in the war on the Ukrainian side.

By 10 March, the Russian occupying forces had used more than 700 missiles in Ukraine, about a tenth of them from the territory of Belarus.

The Belarusian “Yelbasy” himself already admits that he now learns about these and other acts of aggression by Moscow against Ukraine from the territory of his country from the media.

The Russians are no longer bothering with the coordination. That is why Aliaksandr Lukashenka is ‘Yelbasy’.

As the Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich points out, if the dictator’s earlier constant threats against Ukraine signalled his desire to demonstrate his personal need for Moscow in this way – as well as the Kremlin’s broadcasting of an “unofficial” message to more than just his neighbours – do not expect a reduction in tensions.

We should remind again he is a troubadour.

With the drastic change of circumstances, when the “victorious war” becomes a mirage rather than a fact of the reality that was greeted for not long ago, the political animal of Belarus’ “Yelbay”, with its animalistic survival instinct, becomes “hot”.

According to one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition Pavel Latushko, who is based in Warsaw, Aliaksandr Lukashenka is still trying to play the proxy card, even though the facts about involvement of Belarus in the aggression against Ukraine are all too clear.

Inconsistencies began to emerge after the last telephone conversation between him and Vladimir Putin on 4 March. A press release issued by the Kremlin declared the unconditional support of the Belarusian dictator for his Russian counterpart. The Minsk press release, on the other hand, made no mention of unconditional support.

According to Pavel Latushko, Aliaksandr Lukashenka is betraying Vladimir Putin, as he always does and has done so many times in the past and will do so in the future. For example, he has used the argument that it is necessary to add a Western flank (from Poland and Lithuania) to his country’s participation in the war against Ukraine.

The question of the future is; however, open, first and foremost, because the Kremlin is now the master of all and above all in the Zeitnot. Whether the Belarusian dictator wants it or not, the Belarusian version of “Yelbasy” is actualized by life itself.

Aliaksandr Lukashenka when asked, rushes to Moscow as obediently as possible (as he did on 11 March), and will rush to the Russian dictator at the lift of an eyebrow.

However, the chances of him slipping through this time too are almost equal to zero. The last straw (for appearances sake) is not to send troops against Ukraine, which is the remaining room for manoeuvre of the Belarusian “Yelbasy”.

It is also increasingly likely that the latest version of the Russian-Belarusian “union state” is beginning to resemble a scorpion fight in a glass. It seems that Aliaksandr Lukashenka is finally realising that things are not going where he expected.

And that the future for him personally is a precipice.

Arūnas Spraunius


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