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Was Minsk blown up from Moscow?
Written by   
, 15 2011

ImageThe terrorist attack on the Minsk subway has spawned many theories and presumptions about those who were behind this horrific event. Someobservers believe that the attackers may be in Russia. According to independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, there are several arguments in favor of this theory when viewed in the context of the upcoming 2012elections.

‘Respublika’: Dmitry Borisovich (Oreshkin), the terrorist attack on the Minsk subway was a new phenomenon for Belarus, and very unexpected. Doyou have any theories as to who might be behind this event?

Dmitry Oreshkin: Irather doubt this was (the work of) the global jihad. After all, Belarus is not a place that irritates the Islamic freedom fighters, though there are some who believe that the destabilization of Belarus is for some reason the work of Caucasus jihadists. Ido not see thelogic.

To say that this is some “international behind the scenes” activity is also, Ithink, from the fairy tales department. Thisis the opinion of people who are battered by some geopolitical mirage. TheWest is much more interested in enticing Lukashenko over to their side, and, indeed, it tried to do so recently by promising billions of dollars worth of credits if Lukashenko would just behave decently. Lukashenko cannot behave decently, even though he tried he really needs the money. OnDecember 19th he strangled this chance with his own hands (on December 19th, 2010, presidential elections were held in Belarus and these led to a lot of criticism by Western observers, which in turn led to opposition protests and harsh suppressive measures by the authorities Ed.).

Accordingly, he received no money from the West. Toeven think that the West would retaliate by destabilizing the situation, however, is a failure to understand the West’s interests on the one hand, and underestimate Lukashenko on the other. After all, any political analyst understands that this situation would be more advantageous for Lukashenko he could say that Belarus was in a state of war, and war is war, hence the need to further tighten the screws while at the same time distracting people from the fact that vegetable and sugar are no longer for sale. TheWest would not go for such obvious nonsense.

Anyway, this sounds more like our conspiracy nuts than actual political practices. Forso long as Ican remember, Icannot recall that the West has organized any terrorist attacks, though there are some who are convinced that the World Trade Center attack in New York was organized by the Americans. Well, what can you do? Ithink this issue is more medical than political.

Who in Belarus would this terrorist attack benefit in the first place?

In my opinion, the interests are as follows:

Theory number one is that there was a conflict with the Belarusian security forces in Belarus. Lukashenko changed their leadership Mr. Sheiman (former head of the Security Council Victor Sheiman Ed.) was removed from the ruling elite, and in his place was put Lukashenko’s eldest son. People such as this from this particular culture of political thought rarely leave on good terms. Maybe it was a signal to show the public and the authorities that the new security forces cannot cope. Inany case, internal squabbles among the intelligence agencies must be kept inmind.

Some observers say that even “Poppy” himself could be behind the tragedy. After all, the situation in the country is tense, and now the people are scared. Whatdo you think?

The theory that Alexander Grigorievich (Lukashenko) was interested in this is not without merit, but it is hard to say just how likely or rational it may be. Lukashenko is well in control of the situation. Certainly he is difficult to predict, so perhaps he needed a reason to tighten the screws evenmore.

It is impossible to rule it out, but this scenario also seems odd. While you can pretty much expect anything from authoritarian leaders, “enemies all around us” and “enemies from within” and everyone is trying to encroach on their power Accordingly, he has to take some extraordinary steps to protect that power, so this theory is also impossible to discard, but Ifind it to be of little interest.

There is a third theory: the elections are starting in Russia. TheRussian security services have a certain, from their point of view, positive experience in mobilizing public opinion during critical situations. Forexample, in 1999, public opinion was well focused and mobilized on a small victorious war in Dagestan, which, as knowledgeable people believed, was organized by Boris Abramovich Berezovsky and supported once again by the Russian security services. Victory in Dagestan dramatically increased Putin’s ratings and allowed him to become president for the first time. Strictly speaking, this is already commonplace. Similarly, in 2008, a crisis occurred, a quite convenient victorious little war in Georgia, and, once again, a month or two after the events in Georgia the president’s and prime minister’s ratings rose 10to15%.

These are what in their language is called “effective operations to manage public opinion”. Ifyou are able to at least make symbolic, but apparently convincing, steps towards the unification of Russia and Belarus around the turn of 20112012, this would be viewed through the prism of their value system as a great success. Inorder to create such an agenda, it would be useful to put some pressure on Lukashenko. Thismay well be how the Russian security service analysts arguedit.

So, it was just to try and break Lukashenko?

He is in a hole: the economy is slipping, prices are rising, and people are getting rid of Belarusian rubles. Itis obvious enough. Ifhe does not get any money now (the West will not give him any, and Moscow will not, either, since he has no allies there), then it seems he will not be able to put out these fires on his own. Ifyou rattle his cage with such events, then maybe he will lose his usual confidence and be more amenable to pressure from Moscow. Thisis also merely speculation, though rather widespread among analysts, and it too should not be ignored.

Unfortunately, just discussing such theories pretty much leads us to those who organized the terrorist attack. Theycounted on a certain public reaction and they pretty much got it. Inthis sense, when we engage in a discussion of such concepts, we are willy-nilly playing into someone’s hands. Allthis including our punditry is predictable. Themost correct reaction would be silence, but in an information society that is impossible.

Either way, it is a hypothesis built out of hypotheses, and it makes sense to wait before jumping to conclusions. Theproblem lies in the fact that Lukashenko has lost what is referred to reserves of trust. Evenwhen (and if) this crime is solved, we will still doubt that those who were caught / punished actually did it, and that they could have been framed as often happens.

This is after all not the first terrorist attack in Minsk. Itwas first attack on the subway, but before this there was a bombing in 2008(officially not considered a terrorist attack Ed.). Itwas never solved, and they carefully put the brakes on the investigation, which is strange, since usually these kinds of events leave traces of one sort or another. Maybe it was just that someone very influential strongly did not wish it investigated to theend?

The same happened in Russia during investigations into the murders of Baisarov, the Yamadayev brothers, Estemirova, and Anna Politkovskaya. Soit is not yet known if they will find the culprits in Minsk. Inthe meantime all there is left to do is speculate. That, in principle, is in and of itself a symptom of a sick society that has been mutilated by the manipulative techniques of the security services, and accustomed to believing noone.

Are you personally more inclined to any of these theories? Doesthe third theory seem more plausible to you?

I cannot say anything unequivocally, since Ido not have the data. Mypersonal view is not defined not by any unique facts or evidence out of Minsk (since Ido not have any), but from my personal experience in talking with the strategists from the security services, and my conception of their way of thinking and acting. Someone else will have different experiences and a different point of view. Sayfor example that someone gets all his information from that old spy serial with Stirlitz or “Heroism of the Intelligence Officer” and so he cannot believe that something bad like this could ever happen, because it nevercould.

I used to be a prisoner in such illusions. Idid not want to believe that events on Kashirskoe highway, for example, could have been organized by our security services, but after 10years my view has changed. Inparticular, this was a result of observing what happened at ‘Nord-Ost’ when they told us about the “harmless gas” and that the, oh, 130people actually all died from stress, and for some reason they shot all the sleeping terrorists. Isit that dead men tell no tales? Evenmore difficult to forget were the events in Beslan, where at first we were told that there were only about 300students in there, then they talked about some spontaneous assault, but in the end the result was the abolition of regional elections. They(the government Ed.) never forget to consolidate their political security, but when it comes to ordinary citizens and their children well, here it is God’swill.

After every terrorist attack there is always another enhancement of the security services’ budgetary and legal positions. Judging all this from the outside, it is hard not to notice that, first of all, the terrorist attacks enrich the security service corporation through subsequent increases in budgetary funding. Secondly, these strengthen their political positions, and thirdly, untie their hands by each time releasing them from another fraction of earlier legal restrictions. Theyare gradually moving back to their old emergency powers and usual Soviet position that they are ABOVE thelaw.

We have never seen any mass resignations of security officials after such sad events in Russia, only an increase in budgetary funding, and repeatedly. Aswell as a strengthening of their political position there has been the cancellation of elections, the elimination of competition, and monopoly rights granted to big business. Ido not wish to believe that their road back to power was consciously built upon the corpses of their fellow countrymen, but, unlike ten years ago, Inow am unable to discard this possibility and Iam forced to keep the theory in mind. Without this there is no objective approach to the facts we have observed. Inso far as this is probable in numerical terms, whether 10or 90percent, that too is highly dependent on subjective perceptions.

What do you think awaits Belarus after the terrorist attack? Doyou expect any action from the authorities?

Here it is really quite simple. Nomatter how much one authoritarian regime may differ from another, the trajectory is pretty much the same. Italways leads to tightening of the screws, because they have the following system of priorities: number one is the boss and his personal political ambitions. Theprimary principle is the conservation of his dear self in power, and everything else is secondary. Ifhis throne starts to wobble (in the first place due to his flawed authoritarianism), then he always acts according to the same scenario: he tightens the screws, breaks up the opposition, and bans the media and limits access to the Internet. Henever makes the situation any better for the country, because in order to do that it is necessary to remove all roadblocks and permit it to move freely in all directions of growth (and we never know in advance what direction will be most successful). Thismeans to allow competition, and, it follows, restricting his own dictatorial powers, which for an authoritarian leader is terribly difficult to do, and, in Lukashenko’s case, impossible because of they way he is organized psychologically.

He will go in exactly the opposite direction by taking out the competition, strengthening his control and his apparatus of repression. Inevitably he sinks into increasingly depending on it more heavily, and this plunges the economy into stagnation. Weare observing this now. Heis unable to loosen the screws because this is fraught with a loss of his personal power, so instead he clamps down. Thebombing in the subway, whoever organized it, is an excellent excuse forthis.

And who will have to be made a scapegoat?

If we are talking about the bombing, then the responsibility is likely to laid at the feet of foreign forces. Ifthey accuse some internal opposition, then this means that his control of the situation is poor and he cannot ensure stability. Itis not to be ruled out, of course, that they will heap blame on the internal opposition, but this would be a poorly thought out decision in terms of PR. Firstly, it is difficult to imagine that suspended Professor Milinkevich or suspended Lebedko, who cannot take a step without being followed and are constantly being eavesdropped and recorded from a secret basement somewhere, could have planted an explosive device.

Secondly, there is informational transparency. TheBelarusian opposition leaders are psychologically the wrong type of people (for such an act), and it shows on TV. InStalin’s day, all people ever knew about the “enemies of the people” were their names and what they were told by the official media. Therefore, Bukharin, for example, could be accused of anything and everything, even eating human flesh. Thatdog does not hunt anymore.

As far as Iknow the Belarusian opposition, they are mainly people of the intellectual-professorial type. Ihave never met anyone among them who was capable of such. Andwhy? Because they do not become leaders, for them power is not an end in itself. Theyare different psychologically, and, for that matter, they do not have the resources. People who seek power by any means do such acts people for whom TNT is but a consumable like diesel for a tractor.

Yes, a bag of RDX and a well-known Belarusian opposition leader somehow does nottally

Of course, everyone knows perfectly well what is under the hood. These people cannot even cross the road against a red light without getting arrested.

But Ido believe that we are not going to get by without some of nameless internal enemies. “Poppy” has to unite the nation, accuse the traitors and his spiteful critics and show that he still is carrying Belarus around in his capable hands like a crystal vase. Thebest way for him to create this situation is by limiting people’s access to information and tightening the screws.

Therefore the reaction will be quite predictable: increased security powers, a search for external and internal enemies, and, consequently, a strengthening of an authoritarian regime into a totalitarian one that is isolated from the outside world as a model of governance. Again, by and large we can say that all this could benefit some long-term strategy that Lukashenko may be implementing. Since Belarus is surrounded by enemies who want to destroy her, it follows that the only person who can save her is, of course, Alexander Gri-gorievich.

What do you think, what will “Poppy” do if he receives confirmation of the theory about an external force? Forexample, the one about the Russian elections and the desire of some to bend Lukashenko Willhe humbly meet the conditions that they set forhim?

In my opinion, no. Hewill resist. Thisis a man who has repeatedly said that he will never give up sovereignty, and it sure seems that way. Myfeelings after my visit to Belarus are about the same. Theyrelate to Lukashenko in various ways, but there is always something that is not said in the Russian media. Imperceptibly, and this has been going on awhile and is to Lukashenko’s merit, is the emergence of a Belarusian identity. Theyperceive themselves as a separate people. Whenthey talk about Russia, they say, yes, Russia is a “good neighbor” or “not a good neighbor” but it is a neighbor, while Belarus is its own country. AndLukashenko, no matter what may be, is their problem and they will deal with him themselves.

A national identity has formed, and its symbol is Lukashenko. Thisis important. Ourstrategists from the security services, as always, live in yesterday. Theyare victims of their own corporate propaganda and genuinely believe that Belarusians dream about how quickly they could reunite with Russia. Thereality is quite the opposite. Theinformants, whose services are used by our highly secret experts, are themselves from this same corporation. Theywant unification, or at a minimum they are interested that unification projects are abundantly financed by the Russian budget. Therefore they (perhaps sincerely) send their Lubyanka chiefs misinformation, and those (also perhaps sincerely) send it up the chain of command.

Thus it was during the twilight of the Soviet Union, when our secret sages believed (perhaps sincerely) in the superiority of socialism and believed their friends from the “progressive regimes” and willingly wasted money supporting them, though never forgetting about their own careers along the way. Thereality is different. Belarusians want sovereignty even more than economic growth. Lukashenko knows this and feels it with his flair as a populist politician. Toyank his throne out from under him while he is still alive will be a devilishly trickytask.

If there are any more or less convincing signs that the terrorist attack was the work of Russia, then Lukashenko will used this enthusiastically, at 150%, baking himself such a pie out of this that everyone gets messy Thepublic, they say, has no time for strolling through the woods picking mushrooms time to defend the motherland. Inthis sense (Lukashenko) will become the symbol of Belarusian independence and self-government the Belarusian version of the (North Korean) Juche idea. Ifhe can somehow conclusively prove this, then he will have a powerful trump card and will strengthen his political position. Hecan distract the public from real problems by proving that there really are enemies everywhere. Hewill say, with torment in his voice: “I believed them until the very last Weall trusted them Wetolerated them and did not mind it Evenwhen they used poison gas and when they shut off the fuel, we still forgave them Butnow they have stooped to terrorist attacks” and he will wipe away a small, manlytear.

If this third theory is anywhere close to reality, then our wise men must never allow that to become known. Everything has to be done just right in order that (Lukashenko) will never have any proof, and only at the highest levels will they look into his eyes and drop a hint: “Alexander Grigorievich, can’t you just see how messed up things have gotten? It’s all because you put the wrong emphasis on foreign policy. Think about it, you never know what might happen. Youcould perhaps drink a cup of tea just like Prince Hamlet did with Polonius, quite by accident.” Yes, and he himself is well aware of all ofthis.

But if he is never able to prove anything, and if “Poppy” does not want any tea, what then?

For Lukashenko power is life. Heis organically incapable of sharing power. Heis able to increase it, cherish it, and try to expand it, or if he cannot expand it, he can wall it off from the rest of the world and play dollies and rule his own territory. Likea tick, you will never pull him from power in one piece only by the head. Oursecurity services, however, are thinking: “We’ve broken types like this. He’s going nowhere. We’ll clamp down, shut off his oxygen, put a plastic bag over his head and hiss eyes will be bulging in no time.” Here it is unclear, however, where is the stone and where is thespit.

And could it happen that in six months we will both reading the news and it turns out that Alexander Grigorievich, they say, drank some tea and unexpectedly ordered himself to live a long time?

Anything can happen, but in actual fact our people are also not stupid. Ifnecessary, they will come to an agreement with him. Theywill say, “Hey, not too much is required of you. Weneed to tell our populace that we have finally formed a union of Russia and Belarus. Justpretend for 12years! We’ll work it all out later.” But would he want to pretend? Forhim, as an autocratic man, to pretend would be a monstrous insult, and a humiliation. Hedoes not want to be under Russia, even just for fun, but all this will become clear sometime in the next six months. Yes, and other strange things will also be madeclear.


In the newspaper ‘Respublika’


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