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After the turbulent elections in Belarus, it seemed that the situation in the country was gradually stabilizing. Opposition leaders fled the country, the new old power embarked on the path of war against instigators from abroad, Washington and Brussels forgot who Roman Protasevich was. People have returned to normal life, paying less attention to the loud slogans spread on social media.
On September 27th, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya recalled herself from the rostrum of the UN Human Rights Council. In her video message she traditionally tried to draw the attention of the international community to political prisoners in Belarus, daring to call on the UN Security Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly to include the Belarusian issue in their agenda.
In fact, Tsikhanovskaya’s claims had no instant effect at the UN, unlikely in Belarus.
While she was recording a video for the UN, her loyal follower in Belarusian opposition was filming himself killing a KGB (the State Security Committee) officer in Minsk. As a result, a “double bomb” exploded in the information sphere of Belarus, right at the moment when the UN remembered who Tsikhanovskaya was.
On September 28th, during an operation, KGB officers were checking the apartments of those potentially involved in terrorist activities, including active members of Belarusian opposition.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, it was established that this citizen, identified as Andrey Zeltser, was reasonably suspected of “committing particularly dangerous crimes related to terrorism”.
The man and a woman in his apartment ignored repeated demands to open the door. After security forces legally opened the door and entered the room, the suspect shot a KGB officer twice with a firearm, causing him injuries incompatible with life. Mr Zeltser was also killed by return fire.
“The prosecutor’s check established that the KGB officers acted within the limits of the rights granted and in accordance with the law.” the official statement of the Prosecutor General’s Office reads.
In a few days, there is less doubt that the shooting was not an accident but rather a planned operation.
According to the Belarusian media, one of the opposition’s main Telegram channels reported the incident about half an hour before the official statements.
While Nexta Telegram channel made a publication at 19:37, Belta’s report was released at 20:14 on its Telegram channel. The exact time of the official claim published on the KGB website is unknown.
It was also highlighted that the Nexta’s post included the same images that were used in the Instagram account that allegedly belonged to the shooter. The account had only one subscriber and most of the photos were published in August or September.
The video of the incident, which was shared immediately after the official claims, clearly demonstrates that Mr Zeltser and a woman, who is supposed to be his wife Maria Uspenskaya, were preparing for the shooting long before it happened. They calmly loaded a gun and turned their cameras on.
According to the footage and the behavior of the actors, it may be concluded that they did not expect such a turn of events. Moreover, it is likely that their scenario was not to kill officers but to shoot in their direction. This would demonstrate their “patriotic” readiness to use weapons in their fight against the Belarusian authorities.
Unfortunately, something went wrong.
The video shows that the terrorist fired two shots. Taking into account that he is known to be good with weapons, since he was a member of a hunting club, he probably wanted to hurt the officer targeting his right shoulder, but the second shot, made after the victim took his gun, killed him, as the assailant’s rifle had already dropped lower.
It is heard that the terrorist cried that he opened fire, likely in order to somehow whitewash his attack on the video.
The KGB officers entered the apartment with no weapons in their hands, they were likely with no body armor. This is surprising, especially, against the footage of similar operations conducted in other countries, including the US, Russia and China. The empty-handed security forces are the real face of the “terrible”, “oppressive” Minsk regime, as described by the “poor”, “unarmed” opposition.
However, the security forces of Belarus took into account the experience of other countries and continued the operations in full kit. Law enforcement agencies have stepped up their work to identify opposition members on social media. Сurrently, more than 2 000 criminal cases were launched.
The Belarusian authorities have already promised to find and punish all publicly sympathizing with the terrorist. “Don’t even try to clean up your social media accounts. Everyone who saw a sacred victim in the criminal, who stepped over the tears of a four-year-old child (of the officer), who gained hype on the tears of the officer’s family, will be found,” said the head of the presidential administration Igor Sergeenko.
At the same time, the opposition’s instigators from abroad have also intensified their agitation. A large campaign was launched to whitewash the killed terrorist. As expected, Mr Zeltser has become a new hero. The highlights of the opposition media have already identified him as a decent family guy, a master of sports, a poor victim of the regime, without mentioning that he was the terrorist who was the first to open the fire.
“Dima-“Nirvana” (the killed officer) did not chase the criminal, did not save the hostages, did not cover the child with his body, was shot in someone else’s apartment after breaking the door. Andrey Zeltser could bring income to the country, raise children, run marathons, but now he is lying in the morgue.” – the most arrogant and illogical comments on the incident claim.
Surprisingly, the instigators, who are mostly hiding in Eastern Europe, were not supported by their European colleagues.
Leading world news agencies avoided covering this topic. They just ignored the murder. And there are two main reasons why:
- it was a difficult task to cover such news without destroying the image of the “warm and fuzzy” opposition in Belarus. This vision has been imposed for more than a year and could not be ruined by one video showing the real face of the terrorists.
- Europe cannot aggravate the confrontation with Belarus now, amid the ongoing energy crisis, since one of the main gas pipelines, Yamal-Europe, passes through Minsk.
While Brussels turns the blind eye, Washington could not stay apart.
The U.S. Special Envoy for Belarus, Julie Fisher, made traditional claims on human rights, supporting the poor terrorist.
“This incident appears to provide further evidence of the regime’s disregard for human rights and its willingness to utilize extreme methods to threaten perceived political opponents — a pattern which is regrettably well-established in Belarus,” she said in an emailed statement.
Her statement on Twitter, made only two days after the shooting, was more interesting, as the US recognized only one death in the incident, the death of the terrorist.
1/5 We have noted reports about the disturbing shooting incident in Minsk #Belarus on September 28 and deplore the violence and loss of life. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.
— Julie Fisher (@USAmbBelarus) September 30, 2021
Amid rumors that the shooter was a US citizen, the US Embassy still cannot confirm or deny this information, three days after the incident!
2/5 We have also seen Belarusian and Russian sources assert that the victim was a U.S. citizen. As of this time, we are unable to confirm such assertions.
— Julie Fisher (@USAmbBelarus) September 30, 2021
The reaction of the Belarusian authorities is harsh. The first results of the security operations were not long to wait.
For example, a criminal case was launched against one of the Belarusian opposition politicians, ex-presidential candidate, Valery Tsepkalo, who is currently hiding in Ukraine. He posted a video on YouTube endorsing the murder and calling for violence.
On September 30, in addition to numerous online activists, the KGB claimed that it had eliminated an “extremist network” operating at the country’s largest enterprises. The so-called “Rabochy Rukh” (“Workers’ Movement”) organization was established during the mass protests last year. Its work was coordinated by the movement’s activists abroad. They recruited employees of the largest Belarusian enterprises who had access to classified information, according to Konstantin Bychek, deputy head of the KGB investigation Department. The organization’s work was coordinated via Telegram “with the assistance of foreign intelligence services.”
Many organizations were created in Belarus, and a lot of foreign companies financed the opposition activities, including the one in which Andrey Zeltser reportedly worked.
Thus, a month ago, the founder of the US EPAM IT company was accused by President Alexander Lukashenko of financing the protests in 2020.
Another IT specialist of EPAM, like Mr Zeltser, gained more popularity than his colleague. Ilya Begun was responsible for innovative platforms at the Tsepkalo headquarters, worked for Solidarity Funds in Vilnius, in particular BYSOL, which allegedly collects funds for families of political prisoners in Belarus. He later leaked the bulk of compromising material about these organizations.
Andrey Zeltser wanted to gain even more popularity. In his turn, he strictly followed the instructions of the instigators.
Instructions distributed on various opposition accounts inspire their followers to use force against law enforcement officers, reassuring people that they only risk getting a few years in prison for murder and will be pardoned as soon as the opposition gains control over the country.
Not only Mr Zeltser was inspired by such a propaganda, but so was the alleged Mrs Zeltser. Her role in the murder should not be belittled. In fact, she is the first to be blamed for this incident.
The woman was a member of the opposition and actively campaigned for Tsikhanovskaya during the elections, according to the claims of their neighbors.
Her behavior on September 28th was more than suspicious. Without trying to stop her “lovely husband”, she inspired him to commit a crime. Without helping him when he was wounded, she was seen trying to film the faces of KGB officers. She even stood behind her “husband” when the officers entered the apartment, trying to take a better picture.
Andrey was not ready to die, he wanted to get more hype, but she likely convinced him to take a risk, like if he was a ‘lonely wolf’ terrorist.
The reason for taking the most detailed footage may be to later make her the main victim of the regime. This would help to create an image of “a pore women left alone with her child” and make another star for opposition, in case Andrey is killed. As it happened.
She was detained by security forces and is now suspected of complicity in the murder.
The purpose of the terrorist attack was a new wave of radicalization of the Belarusian people.
This is the traditional terrorist strategy of modern neoliberals in action. They are ready to send their loved ones (as “Maria” did) or crowds of civilians (as the opposition instigators do from abroad) to their deaths, in order to get more hype and perform their bloody tasks by someone else’s hands.
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