Yesterday, Russian law enforcement put Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who many in the West consider the true winner of presidential elections in Belarus, on the interstate wanted list. What's interesting is that the announcement was timed to Tikhanovskaya's visit to the German Bundestag.
The news was perceived rather ambiguously within the framework of the Belarusian political battles, if anyone can refer to these developments this way at all. At least, there was confusion among those who tend not give in to emotion, trying to assess the situation from a sober perspective.
At first glance, everything seems rather logical. The Kremlin, indulging the Minsk regime, is exerting pressure on a fragile and defenseless "President Sveta". But, this initial perception is deceiving..
I should reiterate my firm position: there's no opposition in Belarus as such. There is a group of players affiliated with, funded by, and receiving media support from Russia. The group have become a lever against Alexander Lukashenko, who had been slowly but surely drifting westward, away fromk Russia, over the past six years. However, the factor of opposition with certain protest potential available has forced Lukashenko to make an abruptU-turn toward the Kremlin's sphere of influence.
Incidentally, one of the frontmen of the "Tikhanovskaya on Russia's wanted list" spin was the media empire of Putin's darling Alisher Usmanov, including the Kommersant outlet, which had been providing warm coverage for Tikhanovskaya from the onset of the election campaign.
Anyway, how could Russia put on its wanted list this sweet young lady who manages to insert words of undisguised flattery for Putin in her incoherent babble on camera? It sometimes seems that the Belarusian "opposition" voice more praise for Putin than some crazy babushkas in a distant Russian village who know nothing better!
Well, in fact, there's another, and more important, look on Russia's "wanted list" move.
As it turned out, the fact that Tikhanovskaya's file is now in the interior ministry's database doesn't mean any criminal case has been opened against her. Moreover, "President of Sveta" is free to come to Russia and the worst she could face is to be interviewed by law enforcement with no detention or arrest at the table with the prospects of being thrown to some FSB torture dungeon.
So, now that we have cleared this out, those confused should hear a click in their head. Once again: President Sveta is visiting Bundestag and on the same day, Russia puts her on wanted list, which, as it appears, poses no threat to her freedom in any way, despite threatening titles of news reports , so diligently spun by Alisher Usmanov's media... Could this be a coincidence? I seriously doubt it!
In fact, President Sveta's Russian handlers are working hard to give even more legitimacy to her the image they designed for her of an "opposition leader" and "truth seeker", who has been "persecuted" not only by the Lukashenko regime, but also by the Kremlin.
Well, that's a real classic, I should say! It's sad to see though that western politicians tend to be so easily manipulated with such an old trick.
P.S. These western officials should recall another person "wanted by Russia" (who has already been assassinated in Tbilisi), Mr Akhmed "One-Armed" Chatayev, who in a status of a refugee, "persecuted" by Putin's regime, had for 10 years traveled across Europe and then in 2013 abruptly resurfaced in Syria, where, on the instructions of Russian intelligence he formed the ISIS in the shape and form that we saw from 2014.
Chatayev masterminded terrorist attacks on behalf of ISIS, including a prime example at Istanbul Airport in 2016 amid tensions between Russia and Turkey. Before that, there were terrorist attacks he had plotted in Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, after which the Kremlin hollered: "Lift sanctions and we will help you fight ISIS' terrorism."
So, this very Europe that's keen on schooling Ukraine on how to deal with "Russia's hybrid threats", has itself failed to identify these "metastases of hybrid Russian influence" – ranging from the media to the agents of influence and militants, who have massively penetrated the West's "body" – from Berlin to Paris.