Belarusian social activist Sergei Bulba (NGO “White Legion”, NGO “Belarusian-Ukrainian Union”, “Fresh Wind” movement) assures that Russia’s permanent interference into the domestic political life of Belarus has significantly increased today.
At the same time, S. Bulba emphasizes that the situation is aggravated due to strong information influences from Russia. According to him, Belarusians have been living immersed with their heads into Russian TV for 25 years.
From the late 2013 (from the beginning of the pro-European Revolution of Dignity in neighbouring Ukraine, which was covered in drastically different ways in Kyiv and Moscow), S. Bulba and other Belarusian activists launched a campaign in support of the official broadcasting of Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian TV channels in Belarus. Initially, negotiations and consultations regarding this issue even began with the relevant governmental entities, but then President Lukashenko ordered to delay this process so as to stay from irritating Russia.
According to S. Bulba, on the eve of the presidential election in Belarus (on August 9 this year), many physically trained men from Russia arrived in various regions of his country. In particular, it happened to know about 200 members of the National Guard, retired security officers and people of Chechen origin. These people arrived in mid-summer, a month and a half before the election, and settled mainly in rest homes. That is, a large number of men 30-40 years old from Russia has suddenly decided to rest in Belarus. Belarusian law enforcement officers monitored all these developments and reported about them to A. Lukashenko, who ordered in advance to prepare the relevant unities (military, Special Operations Forces, police) to possible resistance to external hybrid intervention by Russia (during the occupation of Crimea the Russian military who did not have identification marks, referred to as “green men”). After all, Lukashenko himself, Belarusian officials, and ordinary citizens of the country were well aware of the desire of Putin and all Russian political elite to annex Belarus.
Generally, after the Russian attack on Ukraine in 2014, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister V. Makei managed to successfully convince Brussels and the most influential European capitals that it is impossible to put too much pressure on official Minsk and demand too much from it (in terms of compliance with the foundations of democracy and the rights and freedoms of citizens), because it is Lukashenko who is the guarantor that Belarus will not be occupied (in one way or another) by the regime of Vladimir Putin. For various reasons, the European Union has accepted and agreed with this message.
In this regard, S. Bulba does not even conceal his bitterness towards the representatives of Western embassies, especially German diplomats, who in recent years have “turned a blind eye” to the harsh pressure on the “third sector” of society by the Belarusian authorities (from accusations of financial abuse and tax evasion to crude arrests and unjustified custodies of activists). On their part, the representatives of diplomatic missions justified themselves by saying that, fully aware of the criminal nature of the Lukashenko’s regime, they were afraid to create (or bring closer) the conditions under which the incorporation of Belarus by authoritarian Russia would be possible.
During the presidential election campaign, Lukashenko postured himself as dedicated Belarusian patriot – the only one capable of guaranteeing further independence and stability of the republic, over which the shadow of the Russian neo-empire looms menacingly. In recent months, perhaps for the first time in 30 years, the Belarusian secret services have been hunting not for Belarusian nationalists on the eve of the election, but for overzealous supporters of the alliance with Russia. In this context, alternative presidential candidates – Sergei Tikhanovsky (later his wife Svetlana), Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepkalo – were declared official proponents of the Kremlin in Minsk and “instruments” of Russian policy.
After the general public did not recognize the falsification of election results and the large-scale protests broke out, the situation in the country has drastically changed. Facing public rejection and non-recognition of his legitimacy by the Western states, Lukashenko fell into Putin’s ardent embrace and, according to popular belief, agreed to unite the two countries into a single Union State. In practice, this means nothing but the complete absorption of Belarus by Russia. Now the Belarusian riot police (OMON) is trampling down not those trained for Russia’s hybrid intervention, but its own civilians, including women and the elderly. S. Bulba was coerced to run to neighbouring Ukraine, where he currently helps both political refugees and migrant workers from Belarus. Unable to stay in Minsk, he is doing his utmost at the moment, while living in Lviv. Generally, S. Bulba and his supporters place their main hopes on the political support of those states that were once part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Rzeczpospolita.
As S. Bulba believes, the political elites and peoples of these states are the closest to the Belarusians in terms of mentality, psychology, cultural and historical ties. Therefore, they perfectly understand the difficult situation in today’s Belarus and can provide the most urgent and effective support to the Belarusian people.
For these reasons, S. Bulba relies, primarily, not on the collective West as a whole, and not on the huge European Union, but on two regional organizations – Baltic, Adriatic, Black Sea Initiative (Three Seas Initiative, which includes 12 EU countries) and the Visegrad Group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary).
There is also a specific Belarusian idea, which has been actively developed by Belarusian political scientists and oppositionists since 1991 – the project of the Baltic-Black Sea Union (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and Ukraine). In addition, for many Belarusian patriots, the Polish concept of the Intermarium has a resonance, which is currently a certain political vision, but it is possible that sooner or later it will materialize at a specific institutional level. As Mr. S. Bulba hopes, fresh wind from the seas will definitely reach every corner of the Belarusian lands and will encourage complete renewal of his native land.