June 26 – July 2, 2023
Belarus-Russia relations

There is a country, there are authorities, but there is no state

The situation has not changed
There is a country, there are authorities, but there is no state
Молодые люди смеются на фоне танка ЧВК «Вагнер». Автор: Fargoh.

Lukashenka and Putin once again started talking about the prospects of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, diligently pretending that Prigozhin’s “rebellion” is some distant, almost forgotten past. The consequences of this event, however, will still affect in the future, and the blamestorming will continue.

Speaking at the tenth Forum of the Regions of Russia and Belarus, held on June 28th in Ufa (virtually), Putin “increased” the role of the Union State. He declared that the experience of Russia and Belarus living under tough sanctions for more than a year has shown the effectiveness of the association and makes the bloc one of the centres of world politics. During the same event, Lukashenka said that Belarus is ready to participate in the modernisation of key sectors of the Russian economy.

Lukashenka and Putin spent the first part of the week “celebrating” victory over the turmoil initiated by the 36-hour “march on Moscow” of the Wagner PMC under the leadership of Yevgeny Prigozhin. Both dictators were engaged in bribery of the military and security forces. Putin presented awards to servicemen and security officials who allegedly “stood to the death” and “actually stopped the civil war.” Lukashenka – during the solemn ceremony – presented general’s shoulder straps to senior officers. During this event, he forced his military to listen to a long and confusing speech about how he saved Russia from internal turmoil during negotiations, though it is still not known exactly who exactly participated in these negotiations, and whether they took place at all.

In the meantime, there was no opposition to Prigozhin’s campaign: the vast majority of experts were astounded by how effortlessly the combat units of the Wagner PMC traveled 800 km without facing any opposition. The prevailing consensus is that while Russia is a country, it lacks the characteristics of a state in terms of holding a monopoly on force. Therefore, discussing the “Union State” seems meaningless.

Similarly, an army of “musicians” (as Wagnerites are often popularly called) could reach Minsk, and Yevgeny Prigozhin could easily establish his own political regime in Belarus. Theoretically, instead of funding from the budget of the Russian Federation, he could have the budget of the whole country at hand, leading its Armed Forces at his own discretion. The really important question is why did Prigozhin, having achieved tactical successes, stop 200 km from Moscow, in some respects repeating the failure of the Kornilov campaign on Petrograd in 1917? Did someone stop him, or did he decide to stop on his own?

There is no clear answer to these questions, and the inner circle of Putin and Lukashenka is probably also looking for an answer. In parallel with the presentation of awards and the “celebration of victory”, both dictators began another search and purge of disloyalty in law enforcement and military structures. After the Prigozhin rebellion, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov and Deputy Russian forces in Ukraine General Sergei Surovikin vanished from public view. Whether they were arrested or detained (and in what capacity) will become clear in the coming days. Both are more or less associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The Ministry of Energy of Belarus announced the completion of the development of a scheme for the disposal of BelNPP re-processing products. According to the agreement between Belarus and Russia, spent nuclear fuel from the Belarusian nuclear power plant will be exported to Russia for reprocessing and then returned.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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