Exiled opponents of the Belarus regime have a plan for victory – and it could start with Ukraine


It’s called the Pieramoha Plan – the « Victory Plan ».

Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

The plan for civil resistance in Belarus presented by exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya – who is in Canada this week and is due to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – has received very little attention in the West.

Instead, the world focused on the shooting in Ukraine. Tsikhanouskaya, who met with Canadian journalists for a roundtable this week, acknowledged that his country and the actions of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s autocratic regime are often overlooked in the current crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during a news conference following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 9, 2021. (Shamil Joumatov/Reuters)

« We see that sometimes the participation of [the] Lukashenko’s regime is overlooked,” said Tsikhanouskaya, who emphatically points out that Moscow would not have been able to do what it has in Ukraine without a flexible regime in Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya is widely considered to have won the 2020 presidential election. She was forced into exile following a brutal crackdown on the opposition by Lukashenko.

During her extensive discussion with Canadian journalists, she – along with her advisers – explained how a victory in Ukraine is essential to overthrowing the current Belarusian leadership.

« We don’t see Ukrainians as our enemies, » Tsikhanouskaya said. « We are very close nations and we have always had a good relationship. »

This may be true for people — it is not necessarily true for governments. While Ukraine is used to being more western-oriented in its outlook, experts say Belarus has looked more to Moscow for political, economic and military support.

The opposition in exile saw an opportunity earlier this year with the start of full-scale hostilities in Ukraine to set up an office where they coordinated activities with the Ukrainian government.

Sabotage, leaflets, online attacks

« We distribute leaflets with honest news. We sent information about the deployment of Russian troops and missile launchers to warn the Ukrainian army, » Tsikhanouskaya said. « The partisans carry out sabotage actions on the railways to prevent the advance of Russian equipment and weapons. »

The opposition employs hackers who, according to Tsikhanouskaya, managed to infiltrate an unidentified Russian state surveillance agency and obtained two terabytes of data and correspondence to be shared with the media.

But Tsikhanouskaya said the Belarusian opposition believes « there should be a partnership between our countries when the war is over. »

A member of the Belarusian diaspora holds a sign depicting Alexander Lukashenko with blood on her mouth as she and others take part in a rally outside the Belarusian embassy in Kyiv on August 13, 2020. (Sergei Supinksy/AFP via Getty Images)

And that’s where the « win plan » comes in.

Tsikhanouskaya said the exiles were trying to keep the flame of resistance alive inside Belarus and claimed to work with several different « underground groups » that sometimes « coordinate, sometimes not ».

The most visible signs of this are the railwaymen who sabotaged the movement of Russian military equipment last spring. Tsikhanouskaya staff said there are also local postmasters who distribute opposition leaflets along with state newspapers.

wait for the right moment

The opposition council in exile calls on its members and the underground groups to be active, self-organized and ready to act when the right time comes.

Tsikhanouskaya insisted that they stuck to non-violent resistance and did not plan armed resistance to the Belarusian regime.

But when is the right time?

It depends, Tsikhanouskaya said. It could be a victory in Ukraine that would shake the Kremlin’s grip on Belarus. This could be the trigger for a political upheaval in Russia.

In addition to being asked to impose more sanctions on Belarusian officials and provide winter clothing to Belarusians fighting with the Ukrainian army, Canada could help fund civil society groups and independent media that would help maintain resistance, she said.

He could also consider launching humanitarian programs for the children of former political prisoners who fled the country.

History and political science experts say that with the battles in Ukraine garnering so much public attention, few people think in detail about what happens after the war – and the resulting instability that could shake up the rest of Eastern Europe.

« The story is that Ukraine and Belarus are going to be linked, but it’s more likely that Ukraine is going to break free and that institutes a kind of long-term change in Russia, » said Matthew Schmidt, an expert on Europe at the University. of New Haven, Connecticut.

Whether a defeat for Moscow on the battlefield translates into a peaceful uprising in Belarus, he said, is another question.

An aerial view shows the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, crowded with supporters of European integration during a rally in kyiv on December 1, 2013. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

What needs to happen in Belarus is a « Maidan moment to bring down Lukashenko, » Schmidt said, referring to the 2014 pro-EU uprising that swept a pro-Moscow government from power in Ukraine.

« But the problem is that Belarus is not Ukraine » economically, socially and politically, Schmidt said. The biggest difference is Lukashenko himself – an authoritarian with a history of violent repressions.

Another question, said Cold War historian Sean Maloney of the Royal Military College of Canada, is whether Russia has resumed stockpiling nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil. When the Soviet Union collapsed, these devices were repatriated to Russia.

Earlier this year, he said, there were signs that « Moscow’s nuclear protection relationship with Belarus has been reactivated or revised or reinstated. »

Maloney said Canadian and allied policymakers need to start thinking and talking about « what comes next » in Eastern Europe, if they aren’t already doing so.

They must have their own plan, he added.


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