The Kremlin has commented on the detention of 33 Russian residents in Belarus. According to Minsk, they are militants of the Wagner Group foreign private military company, which the Western media often describe as a Russian paramilitary organization, and arrived in Belarus in order to sabotage stability before presidential elections.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin Press Secretary, said that these allegations are nothing more but concoctions. In his opinion, the incident should be “clarified,” and the Kremlin hopes to get information that will “help settle it.” It still remains unknown why the Russians were detained in Belarus. News analyst Maxim Shevchenko has made an analysis what the Wagner Group contractors might be doing near Minsk.
According to one of the scenarios, the detained Russians used Belarus as a transit point on their way to other countries. However, according to Shevchenko, this explanation is highly improbable.
“This interpretation is being promulgated by the Kremlin propaganda,” said Shevchenko. “Allegedly, these people gathered in a health resort near Minsk, as they were waiting for a plane to Africa. I do not agree with this explanation because the military air communication was not cancelled despite the coronavirus infection. The military aircraft continue to fly. It is highly unlikely that they spent four days in a heath resort near Minsk in order to fly to Libya. It’s nonsense.”
According to the second scenario, “military mercenaries” were near Minsk in order to bring down the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
“This would be extremely rude,” said Shevchenko. “I don't believe that Russia overtly sent gunmen to overthrow the leader of the Union State constituent country. Otherwise, it would have been considered just an invasion.”
Shevchenko also doubts that the mercenaries were going to invade Ukraine from Belarus, although Kiev maintains this version.
“Of course, there are forces in Moscow that are interested in changing the political system in Belarus,” Shevchenko said. “Moscow operates in Belarus with two hands. With its right hand it supports the opposition, fueling Euromaidan. For this purpose it sends political technologists there and wields information pressure on the leadership of Belarus. It will just suffice to mention the film ‘Belarussian Godfather’ that was shown on the NTV channel. Gazprom stands behind this. It is interested in Belarus losing sovereignty and the state system. Gazprom has already agreed with Poland on laying the pipelines. The only thing left is either to change Lukashenko's position on this issue which he does not want to change or to overthrow Lukashenko. How to bring him down? For this purpose it is necessary to initiate a liberal Maidan. Therefore, Moscow mass media in every way sympathized with the opposition presidential nominees in Belarus and downrightly slung dirt at Lukashenko.”
However, the way Shevchenko views it, the liberal Maidan poses a number of serious risks.
“In particular, there’s a risk that after a hypothetical overthrow of government Belarus might get under the control of the forces openly hostile to Moscow,” Shevchenko said. “Still I believe that the Belarusian state will survive in this situation. Everything might not go as planned by Gazprom which wants to turn Belarus into a space for its pipes, but also according to an extremely undesirable scenario for Russia, wherein Belarus leaves the Union State and becomes hostile to Moscow.”
“That is why the “left hand” is sending taskforces to Belarus that have been already taught to fight in civil wars whose task is to scotch the idea of the liberal Maidan on the grounds,” said Shevchenko. “That is why they began to “accumulate” there by August 9, when Moscow expected the collapse of the Belarusian state, the liberal Maidan in Belarusian cities and towns and the attempt of a coup d'état. They want to keep everything under control.”
At the same time, Shevchenko says, the situation around Wagner Group poses a question point-blank about whether the Union State continues to exist.
“What kind of “the Union State” is it, if groups of people who are ready for military actions, come from the territory of one state to the territory of another one, namely, Belarus, are arrested by intelligence services there?” says Shevchenko. “Moreover, criminal cases are still being initiated against them, while Alexander Lukashenko speaks about unfair plans and requires explanations from Russia?”
On July 29, the Belarusian media reported the detention of 33 Russian citizens. At the same time, according to their information, in total, “more than 200 militants have arrived in Belarus to destabilize the situation during the election race.” Presidential election in Belarus took place on August 9.