In addition to the secession of Crimea and Donbass and failed economic policies, another consequence of the coup d’etat in Ukraine has been the deterioration of relations with the country’s neighbors, and not only with Russia. Ukraine’s image has been seriously tarnished in other countries as well.
I’ve already written on Polish-Ukrainian relations many times for Fort Russ, and I hope to continue this subject, which is regularly enriched with new material. It appears that following Brexit, Ukraine is losing (albeit gradually) another important lobbyist of its interests in the European Union, Warsaw.
Belarus has now been added to the list of neighbors beginning to treat Ukraine with suspicion, bordering on hostility.
Back on October 22nd, a strange incident took place in which Ukrainian aircraft prepared to take to the air to force a Belarusian civilian plane belonging to the Belarusian Belavia company to land or, if necessary, shoot it down. Fortunately, this did not happen. Two weeks later, Poroshenko offered a vague apology (without any explanation) to his Belarusian colleague, Alexander Lukashenko. But as Belarusian observers have noted, those guilty of this incident have not been punished despite Poroshenko’s assurances.
The deterioration of Ukrainian-Belarusian has continued in November and now, at the end of the month, this downward spiral has gained momentum.
On November 17th, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told Russian journalists of a flow of smuggled weapons from Ukraine. Lukashenko’s statement was confirmed by numerous, albeit sensationalist Belarusian media. Belarusians’ concerns are understandable: the flow of weapons is passing through the very long (1200 km in length) border with Ukraine which, by definition, cannot be tightly controlled. Objectively, Belarus’ border guard is incapable of covering all of the holes and blocking the supply channels. What’s more, not only weapons, but also Belarusian and Ukrainian neo-Nazis who fought among the punitive battalions in Donbass might be rushing into Belarus from Ukraine.
The experience of cooperation between Belarusian and Ukrainian neo-Nazis goes back decades. At least since the 1990’s, militants of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense organization have supported their Belarusian “brothers” in protests against President Lukashenko. Today, Belarusian neo-Nazis don’t even bother to hide their plans to gain combat experience and weapons in Ukraine by fighting in Ukrainian battalions (and gaining assistance from their Ukrainian “brethren”) only to then transfer their experience and skills to their native Belarus. Their goal is overthrowing the Lukahensko regime.
The Belarusian president’s worry over the flow of arms and potentially militants has not gone unnoticed in Ukraine. The statement from November 26th by Verkhovna Rada deputy Irina Friz, Poroshenko’s former press secretary, should be assessed in this light. In her words, “the Kremlin is preparing a mass-scale provocation against Ukraine on the territory of Belarus. This could be tied to the preparation for increasing by fivefold the Russian defense ministry’s railway deployments in the direction of Belarus by 2017. The aim of this action might be the liquidation of the Lukashenko regime, the deployment of Russian troops, and the imposition of direct [Russian] state control…This provocation might be carried out with the participation of citizens who have participated in combat operations in Donbass…as well as agents that have infiltrated the security forces of the Republic of Belarus.”
A bit before, the head of the Rada Committee on International Affairs, Anna Gopko, warned of the threat of Belarus invading Ukraine.
What is behind these statements and what aims do they pursue? A general conclusion is that these declarations are directly tied to the above-cited statements of Lukashenko cited by the Belarusian press.
As for specific conclusions:
First of all, I want to draw attention to the phrasing of Friz’s statement. “Lukashenko regime” is an obviously unfriendly phrasing which leaves no doubt as to the attitude of the Kiev government to the legal president of the neighboring country, who has repeatedly stated his fraternal feelings towards the Ukrainian people.
Secondly, it is no coincidence that Ukrainians’ statements have mentioned Belarusian volunteers fighting on the side of the Donbass republics. The unfounded accusations against them of preparing to overthrow the legal Belarusian government represent a logical, albeit naive attempt to divert the attention of the Belarusian government and KGB from those numerous Belarusian neo-Nazis who really are planning to overthrow the “Lukashenko regime.”
In Donbass in 2015, I met with Belarusian volunteers in the Donetsk People’s Republic militia. According to them, their main motive for coming to Donbass was fighting fascism. It is worth recalling that Belarus lost every fourth citizen during the years of the Great Patriotic War, and none other than Ukrainian Nazi-collaborationists from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Insurgent Army most often acted as the executioners. Needless to say, there was no talk of plans to overthrow Lukashenko. Perhaps the Belarusian volunteers did not have the warmest feelings for Lukashenko, but they perfectly understood that overthrowing the legal government in a criminal way would lead Belarus down the path to repeating the catastrophic Ukrainian scenario. These people can be presented as the defenders of the Belarusian anti-Maidan and natural allies of Lukashenko.
Thus, it is obvious that Kiev, at least for now on the level of senior deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, is trying to manipulate Minsk to distrust Russia and simultaneously deflect charges against Ukraine for the flows of weapons and militants running into Belarus. However, in these statements, Ukrainian deputies are revealing their own real plans and real attitudes towards the “Lukashenko regime.”
The events of recent days have confirmed this conclusion. We will turn to these in more detail in the next installment.
Continued in Part 2
Originally published on fort-russ.com