Yesterday, Russian Telegram channels reported even earlier than Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's own press secretary that the pseudo-leader of the Belarusian "opposition" would refrain from taking part in protests scheduled for August 10 to contest election results. Meanwhile, Tikhanovskaya, who appeared to be long time ruler Alexander Lukashenko's main rival, took business class to fly off to Lithuania. Hee fleeing was not due to the purported fear of persecution by the totalitarian government - it was because she had already played her role at the current stage, and now a popular uprising was required with no one at its helm. An angry mob without a leader... However, it should be noted that the angriest part of that mob suspiciously seems to be rather well organized.
But if the housewife-wannabe-president's decision to flee the country is part of the game, then who has been spinning the flywheel of protests, which, on the one hand, appeared pretty mediocre in terms of efficiency, and on the other, made people discuss them, even beyond the borders of the country's immediate neighbors?
Yesterday, on August 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of high-ranking Russian officials congratulated Alexander Lukashenko on his reelection win. Many saw the gesture as Moscow's support support for Lukashenko, but only the blind-deaf-mute didn't notice what kind of hybrid game had been unfolding between these "allies" over the past few years. The year of 2019 was especially telling, when Russian ambassador was expelled, while military attachés were also declared personas non grata and spies were nabbed.
Therefore, Putin's greeting, which gave a green light to the GRU military intelligence to go for sowing chaos in Belarus, is rather about cunningly "embracing a foe". At the same time, the Kremlin needed such a friendly gesture to further destabilize Belarus, after realizing that their puppet Tikhanovskaya would not succeed in bringing a critical mass of people to the streets. Over the past two days, this fact became obvious.
Throughout Monday, August 10, Russian Telegram channels would urge Belarusians to protest. And they did. They took to the streets in numbers that surprised even the organizers themselves, who doomedly emphasized that with such crowds would not be enough to seize a police station, let alone overthrow the president.
But these decadent tones immediately changed, because if the numbers are failing, media are still able to draw a nice picture for the masses. And, as I already wrote yesterday, a symbolic sacrifice was needed. A bit earlier, such sacrifice didn't work out too well after some local lunatic just threw himself himself under a paddy wagon, but on August 10 everything could have turned out differently ... But it didn't, either, of which I'll write in a second.
In the meantime, we should recall the words of a senior analyst with the Vilnius Institute for Political Analysis, Marius Laurinavičius, that it is important for the Kremlin to provoke an escalation of protests, violence against activists, and the subsequent compromising of Alexander Lukashenko in the eyes of the West, thereby depriving him of the opportunity to maneuver towards Europe and the United States.
Therefore, it's no surprise that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, known for his loyalty to Moscow (remember how fiercely he defended Nord Stream 2, grumbling, literally: “No one will disrupt the project!”) before flying to Moscow to meet his counterpart Sergei Lavrov, noted the need to impose sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko. So yes, no surprise here that it was this German leader who was the first to have his say on the Belarus unrest. But let's not get distracted and move on...
It is vital, and I would even say strategically important, for Russia to radicalize protests in Belarus. Just like it was in France with the Yellow Vests movement, who were radicalized through the National Front led by Marine Le Pen, some of whose members fought in Donbas alongside Russian occupation forces. This was also the case in Catalonia, during the pseudo-referendum on the region's independence. This is happening now in the U.S., where the BLM movement is being fueled by Antifa radicals. Practically in all elements of radicalization, from France to the United States, there is a distinctive Russian trace, which manifests itself either in funding or combat training of militants partaking in riots.
In Minsk yesterday, as well as the day before yesterday, athletic youths came to the fore, acting in a well-coordinated manner. Football fans and hooligans - certainly not professors, librarians, poets or architects. A standard mass of combat-ready men ready to jump on riot police shields without thinking about the consequences for their health and, moreover, for the future of their country.
But, for a colorful picture to be broadcast on Russian Telegram channels 24/7, it is quite enough. Western audiences, who saw the Yellow Vests, Catalonia, and BLM, never learned to separate the wheat from the chaff.
So what do we see in the end? The opposition leader could not stand the test of the battle and fled, leaving her supporters alone confronted by the totalitarian Lukashenko. Indeed, she's Mandela or Gandhi. Unfortunately, this political novice seems likely to be easily intimidated even by a phone call.
When Tikhanovskaya was safely abroad, those athletic guys with knowledge of urban riot, pursued with radicalization of a moderate protest, which we saw yesterday. Of course, these tiny "barricades" and the "mighty bunch" of college kids, who found themselves without parental supervision, looked ridiculous, but the problem is that the West empathizes with such weak protesters standing up against authoritarian governments. And when these kids are led by their trained instructors to confront riot police... this is exactly wherethe blood is shed and symbolic sacrifices sacrifices are made for the live broadcast.
Incidentally, once again I can't but mention full media support of the unrest in Minsk, provided by Telegram channels and outlets affiliated with the GRU, which did not hesitate to spin manipulation and disinformation. And to give this coverage the "Western undertone" these Telegram channels are moderated from Eastern Europe, such as Nexta - from Poland, while hosting lots of Russian propaganda content a la Russia Today. Also, yesterday's arrest of Semyon Pegov, a Russian propaganda pundit and supervisor of the WarGonzo Telegram channel, who came into a spotlight during the occupation of Crimea and Donbas, said more than enough on who's really in charge of the Belarus protest wave potential.
But since we mentioned symbolic sacrifices, yesterday Russian information platforms did try to come up with a Belarusian "George Floyd". After the guy crushed by a paddy wagon, another local man, who died on the barricades, was put on the pedestal of such symbolic sacrifice. It turned out though that he died after an explosive device he was trying to hurl at police exploded in his hands.
Well, this option seems to be even worse to hail as a victim of totalitarian government.
Actually, the second day of protests in Minsk was no less lively, but less massive than expected. The rallies began to exhaust themselves as early as on their second day, so a new reactionary element is needed to revive it. Time will tell whether they will continue to cultivate the idea of a symbolic exercise or will they use some kind of “exrernal influence”, such as a “Ukrainian trace”.
At least, our local troublemakers, who call themselves nationalists, while in fact being no one but call boys for provocations, have already joined the information campaign to support the Belarusian protest. Therefore, it is possible that it is these leaders of the hybrid front that will breathe a second wind into the exhausted GRU project.