FROM OUR REPORTER
Kyiv – The Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance in Davos was clear on Wednesday. “Putin has mobilized another 200,000 soldiers, has shown that he is ready to sacrifice thousands of lives, buys weapons from other authoritarian regimes like Iran: it is very dangerous to underestimate Russia.” Jens Stoltenberg knows things that it doesn’t make it into the newspapers. President Zelenskyy’s rush seems to come from the same sources. The Ukrainian calls for tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft defenses, as if the war is about to turn to even greater brutality at any moment. These and other statements hover over the idea of a Russian offensive. In February, coinciding with the anniversary of the invasion or in the spring.
Moscow claims it can produce the incredible amount of artillery it consumes each day, but lacks cannon fodder for an attack. Putin is looking for soldiers everywhere. Before Christmas, Russian police issued an arrest warrant for 6 Wagner mercenaries who defected from a training camp in pro-Russian Donbass. “They are armed and dangerous.” There were three Uzbeks, a Kyrgyz, a Russian and a Belarusian: Putin’s paid international.
The doors of Russian prisons are open to Wagner recruiters. The incarceration rate in the Federation is the second highest in the world (after the US) with 615 prisoners per 100,000 people. In order to clean up her criminal record and start over with a capital of around $20,000, Wagner asks for six months on the Ukrainian front. Mercenaries are also being recruited in Syria, under the Taliban-defeated Afghan government, the ex-Soviets in Central Asia, under the Serbs (with US protests at President Aleksandar Vucic).
Belarus can play an important role in increasing the mass of soldiers. Il Corriere had asked Svetlana Tichanovskaya, the leader of the opposition against the dictator. “Lukashenko must obey the Kremlin, but he cannot send troops to Ukraine without risking his own power.” In Belarus, few have baited Putin’s propaganda about the threat of a Polish invasion, you don’t see a Z (symbol of the war in Ukraine) on the walls. Still, the December Putin-Lukashenko talks appear to have resolved both issues: Putin will have more soldiers, Lukashenko will not risk an internal revolt.
This was told to Corriere by a Belarusian source very close to the presidential club. If she were caught communicating with a Western journalist, she would risk jail.
“Putin visited Lukashenko in Minsk on December 19 and then received him in St. Petersburg eight days later. Since then, not only has Wagner been allowed to recruit prisoners in Belarusian prisons under the same amnesty conditions as Russian prisoners, but another private mercenary company called Redut, led by Russian oil oligarch Gennady Timochenco, has opened offices in our cities.
For the man from Minsk, however, the majority of the troops should come from the regular army. “Lukashenko was given the green light for the fighting by just 5,000 Belarusian soldiers, mostly special forces who were obviously overpaid and not thrown into the minefields in front of the Ukrainian mortars like regular conscripts.”
Lukashenko told Putin that he could not abandon his army of around 50,000 without losing the bayonets he needed to put down a revolution. The compromise in the “most poisonous pair of aggressors in the world” (Lukashenko quotes) would have produced an original system.
«The Belarusians are deployed in the second line of battle with logistical and police tasks. This allows the Russian units to increase rotations. One month at the front, one at the back, one in Belarus to quell uprisings. 45,000 Russians are already in Ukraine for joint air exercises from Monday to February 1. The same number that Lukashenko could send to Russia».
According to the senior Belarusian official, “how do you distinguish a Belarusian from a Russian from the satellite when both are wearing the Moscow uniform? In this way, Lukashenko could always deny direct involvement in the war.”
The Ukrainian secret service seems to believe in a new attack from Belarusian soil, on Kyiv or on supply lines from Poland. The Minsk is confused. “You haven’t decided yet. For the moment, the effect of the announcement was enough and the Ukrainians moved troops from the Donbass to the north. But if these two choose, no one will stop them.”
January 19, 2023 (change January 19, 2023 | 23:17)
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED