- He accused some forces of trying to make a "color revolution," and said they could do nothing.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the detained Russians were in transit through Minsk to Istanbul, and had not violated any laws.
- Lukashenko spoke far shorter than normal and is rumored to be in poor health.
Five days before presidential elections, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko addressed parliament and the nation. Lukashenko said Russian mercenaries from Wagner’s private military company, who had been detained in Minsk a few days earlier, had been sent by Russia to destabilize the situation.
He accused some forces of trying to make a “color revolution,” and said they could do nothing. He focused most of his speech on young people, urging them to properly assess the situation. Mr. Lukashenko said Belarus had “reached the limit of revolution in the 20th century.”
Belarus will hold presidential elections on August 9. Voting results could come as a surprise, experts say. After Lukashenko‘s 26-year rule, many are said to be ready to vote for an unnamed candidate. Lukashenko told his critics:
“I am a patient person, I like different views. I came to this government from the opposition. I was shot, beaten, broken, but I did not cry. I knew where I was going. We will make whatever decision you make. It’s just never. Betrayal is unforgivable in the afterlife. If you are not ready, step aside. Give yourself a chance to save the country.”
Mr. Lukashenko has accused Russia of sending a group of militants and warned of a harsh response. At midnight on July 28, 32 people were detained at a sanatorium on the outskirts of Minsk. Another Russian citizen was arrested in the south of the country.
Belarusian media quoted law enforcement officials as saying that the detainees were mercenaries of the Wagner Group. Security officials later said about 200 militants had arrived “to destabilize the country during the election campaign.”
A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the detained Russians were in transit through Minsk to Istanbul, and had not violated any laws. During interrogation, the Belarusian leader asserted that they had been sent by Russia.
“Attempts to make a fuss will not work,” he said. “We will not give our country to anyone.” Clashes erupted in Belarus ahead of elections, some Russian experts have suggested that Lukashenko “could delay the election by keeping Russia in the lurch.” However, there was no talk of postponing the election.
About 2,500 people were invited to the Independence Palace, where the President addressed the nation. Deputies from both chambers, government officials, and diplomats attended. The appeal was broadcast live on Belarusian TV.
This time, Lukashenko spoke for an hour and a half. In previous years, such speeches lasted up to four hours. Some noticed that his voice was changing and that he was wiping his skin. He had said a week ago that he had coronavirus without any symptoms.
“Those groups had nothing to do with Belarus or any activity there. Belarus was just a point of transit,” said Zakhar Prilepin, a Russian novelist. Relations with the west got better in recent years as relations with Russia got worse, so it’s the obvious logical connection to make, he said.
“This won’t improve relations with Russia, but it’s entirely possible [Moscow] might wait until passions have subsided to sort this out,” said Artyom Shraibman, founder of Sense Analytics, a Minsk-based political consultancy.