Following an announcement by Belarus that 32 foreign mercenaries (supposedly from ‘Wagner’ group) were arrested, allegedly preparing to destabilize the country, experts and journalists began investigating the claims by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
In a short overview, several conclusions may be made, prior to looking at any of the information circulating in the media and social media:
- The 32 individuals are likely Russian private military contractors (they are very unlikely from the mythical “Wagner PMC”);
- They were passing through Belarus, possibly towards Sudan, to carry out whatever they were likely hired to do – most likely some security or training contract (this is evidenced by the Sudanese money and phone cards);
- It is likely, and in line with Belarus’ recent policy that Lukashenko’s government carried out the detention of these individuals as part of his propaganda campaign against Russia. Lukashenko establishes a “foreign force” that wants to undermine him, and it, quite handily, happens before elections in Belarus. Clearly, if he’s being targeted by the “evil Russians” then he must be doing something right.
- For a while now, and it is evident in the rhetoric in which Russia is portrayed as an aggressor, but at the same time, Belarus’ hands are extended in anticipation for a giveaway, that the country’s policy is generally the same as Armenia’s. The internal and external policies are both clearly anti-Russian, but at the same time Moscow is expected to step in and provide endless support, be it financial or any other kind.
Furthermore, the videos of the detention show that the special forces carrying out the arrests aren’t even adequately armed.
Below are screenshots from the official footage of the arrests.
These are Sudanese pounds, as well as Sudanese phone cards.
Notice how the covert mercenaries had patches such as “Our business is death. And Business is booming.” They’re brand new, and it is understandable wishing to look cool. But it makes little sense to be in a military uniform or have such patches on your clothing if you’re attempting to destabilize an entire country from the shadows.
The official statement from the Belarus authorities is that the mercenaries came dressed in uniforms. The footage that the authorities themselves provided begs to differ.
Furthermore, a closer inspection of the video could lead to a lot of speculation. The door when the special forces are entering appears to be entirely unlocked and opened and they just push it and it opens wide.
The personnel arresting the mercenaries appear to be entirely unarmed.
The bed linens on the beds were entirely untouched, which shows how much resistance was offered by somebody who allegedly plans to carry out some sort of provocation.
Notably, it would appear that an AK-47 handle was required to organize a covert destabilization operation. How much use an AK-47 would see for it to need its handle replaced when it wouldn’t even be used in heavy combat, for example, in the desert, remains a mystery.
These are a few of several questions that could lead to an entire conspiracy theory spinning as a result.
Regardless, it is more than evident that the arrested individuals were not likely interested in causing any sort of destabilization scenario in Belarus, but were almost certainly in transit.
All of the above notwithstanding, State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Andrei Ravkov said that the Russians detained in Minsk are suspected of preparing a terrorist attack, a criminal case has been opened.
“A criminal case has been opened under the article of preparing a terrorist act,” he told reporters.
Raykov claimed that as many as 170 “militants” trained in subversion and as snipers were still in Belarus and were preparing to attack the candidates in the upcoming elections.
“The candidates were informed that 170 militants trained in subversive and sniper activities remain in the country, that there is a risk mainly at mass events,” Andrei Dmitriev said. – Ravkov also said that some other groupings are being formed in Russia near Pskov and Nevel.
He claimed that some of the detainees even admitted that they could carry out a revolution, and that was, actually, the aim of the entire operation. For any careful observer, this would appear to have quite a few similarities with the 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine. Then, Ukrainian propaganda outlets were also speculating about endless Russian agents sent by Putin to undermine the ‘revolution of dignity’.
According to other reports, the Russians detained in Belarus are employees of the PMSC “Mar”. During the interrogation, they supposedly said that they were going to Turkey and then Libya. Under this version, they should have signed a contract in Turkey for the protection of the Zuvar oil port, which is under control by Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). At the same time, the mythical Wagner group is considered hired by the side of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). From Turkey they were supposed to take a civil flight either to Tripoli or to Misrata. There are no flights to Benghazi or anywhere else under Haftar control from Turkey.
The current situation in Belarus is a strong signal of the internal and foreign policy employed by President Lukashenko. The leader of the country is intentionally fueling fears about some ‘foreign enemy’, in particular Russia, in order to tighten security measures in the country ahead of the election and secure the power for another period. At the same time, it demonstrates Lukashenko’s aggressive posture towards Russia, which in the previous year was the main sponsor and defender of the Belarusian state. Nonetheless, Minsk, which is not able to keep even the current relatively low level of life of his citizens without a permanent flow of funding from Russia, is aggressively sabotages any integration projects because Lukashenko sees them as a potential threat to his regime.