Pavel Latushka on the cornered dictator
In recent days, the issue of Belarus' potential involvement in the war — directly in the ground operation against Ukraine — has reappeared on the agenda. Let us make our own assumptions in this regard.
There is no doubt that Belarus, through the fault of Lukashenko, is already a co-aggressor country. These doubts are dispelled by the bill recently submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which defines the Republic of Belarus as "a state that supports the Russian Federation in armed aggression against Ukraine by providing unimpeded access to its territory and military infrastructure facilities for military actions against Ukraine to the armed forces of the aggressor state".
The proposed amendments provide for the possibility of confiscating the property and assets of the Republic of Belarus in favour of Ukraine and do not limit Ukraine’s right to demand that Belarus be held accountable, including to compensate for the damage caused by the full-scale war of aggression, which Russia, supported by Belarus, is waging against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, in violation of international law and committing crimes against humanity.
In other words, reparations — compensation for the material damage caused by the war — are explicitly prescribed.
In their legal justification, members of the Verkhovna Rada — the initiators of the bill — refer to the UN General Assembly’s resolution "Definition of Aggression" of 1974, which clearly qualifies actions involving the provision of one’s territory for an attack by one state on another as an act of military aggression.
They also refer to Belarus' violation of its obligations in relations with Ukraine, in particular the principle of non-use of force or threat of force and the Treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation, which absolutely excludes the possibility of aggression.
For our part we can add that there have also been gross violations of the Constitution, the Military Doctrine of the Republic of Belarus and the Treaty on the State Border between Belarus and Ukraine.
In our view, the authors of the bill quite rightly pointed out that "according to the norms of international law Belarus is a co-aggressor, because it voluntarily granted its territory to the Russian armed forces to commit acts of aggression against Ukraine.
We have also repeatedly stressed that it was thanks to the support of the Lukashenko regime that Russian troops were able to approach Kyiv quickly and by the shortest possible route, seize the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and commit all those terrible crimes in Bucha, Irpen, Gostomel and other settlements in northern Ukraine. So is the fact that the Lukashenko regime has provided and continues to provide its infrastructure to the Russian army — missiles have been and are being flown from Belarusian territory towards Ukraine, air strikes have been carried out, the Belarusian railway has been used for attacks, and the Belarusian armed forces have provided complete assistance to the Russian aggression.
Furthermore, the authors of the bill also draw attention to the use of fuel from the Mozyr refinery by the Russian occupiers — which, by the way, is still not under sanctions. To our conviction it is a serious flaw of the Western sanctions policy.
We should also not forget that previously there was also evidence from the Ukrainian side about the involvement of the Belarusian Special Operations Forces in ground operations, including the "Bucha massacre". Also, news about Belarusian mercenaries who signed contracts with Russian PMCs or directly with the Russian Armed Forces involved in the occupation of Ukrainian territory is increasingly appearing.
All of the above and more is the evidence of military aggression by the Lukashenko regime — "unrecognised world leadership of the Republic of Belarus" (c) — "have been recorded by the international community and is pending before the UN International Tribunal in The Hague", as stated in the explanatory note to the bill.
Yes, the bill has not yet been passed. However, the very fact of its appearance in the political field tells us that Ukraine is ready to officially and legally define the role of the Lukashenko regime in the war — as a military co-aggressor, whose property and assets can be confiscated now, and from whom reparations can be demanded in the future .
If this bill is adopted, all the so-called diplomatic efforts of the regime and all its false letters to the West denying its involvement in the war will be completely ruined.
But should this be considered the last "red line" that has so far kept Lukashenko from directly invading Ukraine?
Hardly. Moreover, we have repeatedly said that a clear position from Ukraine and the West on Lukashenko’s role in the war and really strong, maximum tough sanctions are exactly what can stop him. The worse and more hopeless his situation is, the less likely he is to risk sending the few and more or less combat-ready units to war — the Special Operations Forces, the airborne assault brigades, the OSAM. And even more incredible is sending internal units — riot police or special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Why? Because they are the ones Lukashenko’s regime relies on. But even they may not want to die for him in a real war.
Therefore, the fact that Ukraine demonstrates its willingness to call things by their proper names and, more importantly, to start acting accordingly — in our opinion, will be exactly a deterrent for Lukashenko.
And he himself is well aware that the decision to participate in a ground military operation is a huge risk for his regime. The risk of being left one-on-one with the Belarusian people, who hate him.
Not to mention that the answer will immediately be even tougher sanctions — and not only from the Ukrainian side.
And in this situation the question arises — will Putin help, will he support his puppet Lukashenko?
Lukashenko has no confidence in this either. Having de facto occupied Belarus, Russia has left Lukashenko’s regime in the role of a "puppet government" - but has given him nothing but the formal preservation of Lukashenko in his chair.
Russia itself gained much more — the occupied territory and infrastructure of Belarus became a springboard for an attack on Ukraine. This almost instantly completed the process of Lukashenko’s becoming an international pariah — which had lasted more than a year and a half before.
It can be said that Lukashenko is now in the worst situation of his entire presidency. By exchanging the military neutrality and sovereignty of Belarus for the status of Putin’s puppet and military co-aggressor, he has deprived himself of international subjectivity and his favourite device called "multilateral diplomacy".
Putin, on the other hand, continues to want more — especially after the failure of the blitzkrieg. The Kremlin insists that Lukashenko should join the war in a ground operation.
But is Lukashenko ready to expose his rear so much, for the sake of his Kremlin puppeteer?
As a dictator, no, he isn’t. After all, it is a question of his survival.
The fact is that understanding Lukashenko’s position, the Kremlin today speaks to him exclusively in the language of ultimatums. In fact, now it is a question of keeping Lukashenko in power or not, depending on the expansion of its involvement in the war.
Yes, the occupant Russia has not yet abolished the existing structures of governance in Belarus. However, the second person in the same Security Council is a Kremlin appointee, General Alexander Volfovich. And as it is known, the Security Council is the very structure, which will take over all the power in case something happens to Lukashenko. It is also known that the Kremlin considers the Secretary of the Security Council, General Volfovich, to be a possible alternative to Lukashenko.
Therefore, on the one hand, it does not seem that Lukashenko has any choice at all but to follow Putin to the end and engage in the ground part of the war against Ukraine.
On the other hand, Lukashenko understands that if he sends loyal units capable of carrying out combat missions to the war, he is left one-on-one not only with the Belarusians, but also with Volfovich — and therefore with Putin. Defenceless, with a bare rear.
That is why he, as Ukrainians say, is trying his best "to backtrack". It has even come to a direct statement by Lukashenko that a scenario which is unfolding in Ukraine today is the one that has not been implemented in Belarus:
"Looking at Ukraine, we understand that a scenario is unfolding there that has not been implemented on our soil. When we ask a question, what would happen to us, please look at Ukraine. We understand the level of threats, the activity of which has only shifted to the territory of a neighboring country."
It is important to understand that Lukashenko is a dictator to the bone. Nothing is more important and valuable to him than power. The threat to maintain it is more acute than ever. And today this threat is most serious from the East.
So, will Lukashenko follow his master to the end, expose his rear — or will he still risk betraying Putin? Will Ukraine and the West buy such a betrayal — and how will the Kremlin react to it?
And how will we, the Belarusians, make use of it? Perhaps, that is the main question today. And it is necessary to find the answer as soon as possible. Therefore, our priority task is to create the National Liberation Movement of Belarus.
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