Friday, May 18, 2018

Moscow May Soon Use Its ‘Cossacks’ in Belarus, Christian Democratic Activist in Vitebsk Warns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – Tatyana Severinets, the Vitebsk coordinator for Belarusian Christian Democracy, has protested to officials there about the fact that the Belarusian government has allowed self-proclaimed Cossack groups to demonstrate at a time when it has banned all other demonstrations.

            Her protest involved a “Cossack” event on April 21, and Vitebsk officials dismissed her complaint saying there had not been any violations of public order or actions that sparked “hostility between Belarusians and Russians.” Consequently, it was appropriate for the meeting to happen (

            At first glance, that might seem to be the end of this; but developments since April 21, including the use of Moscow-organized “Cossack” units against demonstrators in Moscow and other Russian cities on May 5 and media reports that the Moscow city government spent 16 million rubles (260,000 US dollars) preparing these “Cossacks” change things, Severinets says.

            She tells the Internet portal of her party that “in Vitebsk alone, there are registered two organized structures of Cossack. How many there are in the oblast and country [she doesn’t know] … The increase in such pro-Russian groups is “not accidental. They enjoy complete freedom from the authorities here.”

            “All this is dangerous,” Severinets continues. “Dangerous in the sense of the Donetsk-Luhansk scenario. Very dangerous!” It is not difficult to imagine, she says, that at some point these people will declare “’Vitebsk is ours!’” and that the oblast if not more will pass to the control of “’the Russian world.’” 

            As their answer shows, the activist says, the local officials either don’t see the danger or “more likely support this process.”  That is, the Vitebsk authorities are “demonstrating their loyalty: we are already lukewarm – take us in your embrace, ‘Russian world.’”  Unfortunately, the Minsk authorities aren’t doing anything to stop this trend.

            And Belarusian officials should be worried because this open display of their tolerance for pro-Moscow forces is already sparking more hostility in society, dividing people in ways that these “Cossacks” will try to exploit just as they did in the Donbass. Instead, they are displaying what is likely “intentional ideological blindness.” 

            The party portal adds to Severinets’ remarks comments that others have posted about the events in Vitebsk. “Where is the Belarusian militia when people display swords?” “Where is the Belarusian tax service when they collect money?” And “where are the Belarusian security services when Russian ‘Cossacks’ are openly recruiting people to fight in Ukraine?”

No comments:

Post a Comment