Opinion. iSANS on the role of Belarus in the Syrian conflict

10 mins

На русском языке: Мнение. iSANS о роли Беларуси в сирийском конфликте
На беларускай мове: Меркаванне. iSANS пра ролю Беларусі ў сірыйскім канфлікце

The international expert initiative iSANS published a post in its telegram channel, where its authors analyze Lukashenka’s statement about sending Belarusian military and doctors to Syria, and why it does not correspond to reality. We quote the words of the authors unchanged.

On Monday, a sensational report appeared in the Russian media that the Russian government approved a draft Agreement on the deployment of the Belarusian military contingent in Syria.

«To approve the draft agreement submitted by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, agreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other interested federal executive bodies, the Supreme Court, the Investigative Committee, and the draft Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Belorussia previously worked out with the Belarusian side [Belarus is called «The Republic of Belorussia» in the document] on cooperation in the field of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Arab Republic,» the order signed by Mihail Mishustin, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, says. Its full text was published on the official website of legal information of the Russian Federation.

The document says that Belarus and the Russian Federation «took into account the official invitation» to take part in a mission to provide humanitarian assistance in Syria, which the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) sent to Belarus, and emphasizes that the Belarusian MILITARY contingent «numbering up to 200 people» will be involved in the implementation of activities «exclusively for humanitarian purposes outside the combat zone.» According to the document, it was planned that Belarusian military specialists would be deployed in the places of dislocation of the Russian aviation group, and would also «promptly subordinate» to the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties and Control over the Movement of Refugees on the territory of the SAR, but at the same time remain under the command of the authorized body of the Belarusian side. It is worth noting that the document also prescribes a ban/restriction on the use of «personal products with advanced multimedia capabilities» (audio recording, photo and video shooting, geolocation).

It is well known that «peace, tranquility, stability» has long been a popular mantra of Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his entourage. He repeatedly promised Belarusian mothers that their sons would never have to fight in third countries, defending other people’s interests, to which his admirers constantly referred; this point was also key in all the election campaigns in which he participated. Taking into account this fact, it is interesting to observe the development of this situation, because the alleged sending of the Belarusian military contingent was first reported by «fraternal Russia», and not by the media controlled by Lukashenka. In addition, the document provided by the Kremlin mentions only the invitation allegedly sent by the regime of Bashar al-Assad to the Belarusian side, but not the agreement between Belarus and Syria on such a sending. To date, there is no information that such an agreement has ever been signed.

However, according to some sources, including those associated with the former «law enforcers», Belarusians have already been in Syria since the autumn of 2021. Moreover, we are talking not only about military doctors, but also military personnel who serve at one of the Russian bases.

It is worth noting that BelTA, the main news agency of Belarus, published an unexpected news about the planned sending of servicemen later than Russian colleagues and independent media, when it was already in fully discussed on the network. At the same time, the headline «Belarus and Russia intend to sign an agreement on the provision of humanitarian assistance to Syria» neatly bypassed the essence of the main message and could mislead a reader.

As the information spread, there was also an increase among pro-Lukashenka experts and telegram channels, who did everything in their power to justify such a decision, as well as to denigrate the «hysterical zmagars» [Lukashenka’s opponents – ed.]. In particular, the infamous channel «Zheltiye Slivy» on Monday evening advised Lukashenka’s opponents to at least «stick their nose» into the document to make sure that «the military contingent is involved in carrying out activities exclusively for humanitarian purposes outside the combat zone.» But the authors of the channel do not give any recommendations to those who doubt that the provisions of this order will be implemented in real life.

Moreover, on Tuesday morning, Aliaksandr Lukashenka himself called the message «another fake». According to him, information about the decision of the Russian government «to send our military to Syria» was news to him, because according to the law, it is «impossible without the president.» Lukashenka claims that he «did not send anyone there», but at the same time, recalls that «a long time ago» the Syrian government asked him to «help with doctors», but now this is impossible, because «we have more than enough problems, and the so-called pandemic has not ended.» He repeats that the Belarusian military «has nothing to do there.»

BelTA quotes Lukashenka: «I emphasize once again: if they need doctors – we will help. Only on a voluntary basis. But after the tension in our hospitals decreases. No, they begin to say: «The Russian government has made a decision.» We talked to the Russian government about the fact that if we send someone there, then Russia would support us. If there is a hospital, it is desirable that we work with the Russians, they have a lot of experience. That’s the whole issue.»

It is not yet clear for what purpose the Russian side informed the world about its desire to draw Belarusians into the Syrian conflict. Perhaps this is a clear signal to Aliaksandr Lukashenka, which he received with indignation (at least he demonstrated indignation to the public, called the message a «fake» and made excuses), because sending the military to Syria would cause an ambiguous reaction even among his supporters. How long will Lukashenka be able to resist Russian pressure, given that it is no longer possible to tease the Kremlin with multi-vectorality after the purge of civil society in 2020-2022 and the loss of contact with the West? Is it time to pay the bills? iSANS continues to monitor the situation.

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