Were Babich and Belarusian siloviki preparing a coup? Lukashenka appears to think so

Vladimir Putin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian rulers of Russia and Belarus

Vladimir Putin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian rulers of Russia and Belarus 

International, Op-ed

Sergey Dorenko, editor of This is Moscow Speaking, says that the Lukashenka regime is engaged in searches and arrests in the Belarusian KGB and the armed services, an indication that the Minsk apparently believes that a coup was being prepared by them, possibly at the instigation of former Russian ambassador Mikhail Babich.

Dorenko says that on his Telegram channel, a statement that has been picked up by Belarusian opposition outlets. Neither he nor other sources provide details making it impossible to know just how widespread such searches and arrests are.

Moreover, it remains unclear whether this reflects an entirely reasonable response to a genuine threat on Lukashenka’s part or an effort to weaken him further by playing on his paranoia. After all, searches and arrests may not strengthen his position but lead some in the Belarusian siloviki to become even more hostile, precisely what Moscow would want.

Belarus (green), Ukraine (yellow) and Russia (red)

Belarus (green), Ukraine (yellow) and Russia (red)

Commenting on these developments, Arseny Sivitsky, head of the Minsk Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research, says that searches and arrests began after Lukashenka’s former security aide was arrested and after Babich was recalled to Moscow and then replaced.

“We saw that Babich was quite active in contact with representatives of the force structures,” the foreign policy analyst says. The former Russian ambassador took part in many public activities of the defense and domestic security agencies. “I cannot exclude that his contacts were also carried out unofficially as well.”

Indeed, he says, one of “’the red lines’” Babich crossed and that caused Lukashenka to demand his removal was undiplomatic contacts with officials. “Unsanctioned contacts with representatives of the local and central authorities, with representatives of the opposition and finally with the siloviki are all violations of established norms of behavior” for diplomats.

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Edited by: A. N.

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