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Natallia Radzina: Lukashenka Dismissed GS Head During Nuclear Exercises Not By Chance

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Natallia Radzina: Lukashenka Dismissed GS Head During Nuclear Exercises Not By Chance
Natallia Radzina

What “red lines” did the Belarusian dictator talk about in Moscow?

Belarus will join Russia in the second and third stages of nuclear exercises. Putin and Lukashenka made this joint statement at the parade in Moscow on May 9.

Natallia Radzina, the Editor-in-Chief of Charter97.org, told about the danger of these maneuvers in an interview with the famous Ukrainian Radio NV:

— Unfortunately, there is an underestimation of the threats that come from both Russia and the Lukashenka regime. When it comes to these nuclear exercises, it is said that this is a kind of psychological destabilization, psyop, intimidation, simulation of the apocalypse. But I would take these threats much more seriously, because both dictators are unpredictable, and we see that Putin needs to win in Ukraine at any cost. He is ready to take any steps. It seems to me that today it is important to understand how dangerous these two elderly dictators are. They realize that their life is finite, so they can take any measures. Yes, it is possible to argue with experts how effective the use of nuclear tactical weapons would be from a military point of view. But the task of Putin and Lukashenka is to stop the West, to stop assistance for Ukraine, mainly military. They are ready to take any step for this.

— The New York Times analyzed satellite images and found a place where Belarus can store nuclear weapons that Russia has transferred to it. What do you know about the possible deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus?

— It was stated that the nuclear exercises of Belarus and Russia will be held in three stages. Both the second and third stages will be held together. We know that in Belarus, most likely, these exercises will be held at the Asipovichy training ground, this is the Mahiliou Region. It is obvious that the nuclear storage facility is located near the place of the exercises, because the exercises will practice the movement of tactical nuclear warheads from the storage facilities to the launchers, that is, to missile systems and to bombers.

It is known that a division of the Iskander operational and tactical system and a squadron of Su-25 aircraft will take part during these exercises. What is known about the Iskander missile systems? As we know, they have up to 500 km range and they can carry nuclear warheads with a capacity of 5 to 50 kilotons. Also, nuclear bombs for Su-25 attack aircraft – their capacity is 15-20 kilotons, the range of combat operations is 350-360 km. There are fears that during these nuclear exercises, nuclear tactical missiles may strike the territory of Ukraine.

Why do these concerns arise? Because such large-scale nuclear exercises with the participation of Russia and Belarus are being held for the first time. Let me remind you that separate nuclear exercises were held in Russia, including, for example, in Buryatia in 2020. Yes, earlier, nuclear strikes on Warsaw and Vilnius were practiced at joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises. We know that at least three times: in 1999, in 2009 and in 2013. But then training schemes were used. Today, nuclear tactical weapons have been brought to the territory of Belarus. It is possible that during these exercises it will be used: both nuclear warheads and nuclear bombs.

— The last time we talked on the air, remember, there was a reaction from dictator Lukashenka. He reacted nervously. Actually, we talked about legitimate military targets, Russian facilities on the territory of Belarus. Do you think that in this story with the nuclear topic, the Belarusian dictator Lukashenka influences anything or is he even deprived of any right to vote, with the understanding that the territory of Belarus is used by the Russians for the nuclear blackmail?

— Lukashenka really watches our broadcasts. He listened carefully to what we talked about, then hysterically said that "he would not allow a strike on Belarusian refineries." We know that the air defence systems were transferred to Mazyr to protect the oil refinery, and today there are units of special operations forces there.

The fact is that Lukashenka on his own exposes Belarus to retaliatory strikes on military facilities and decision-making centers. It is Lukashenka who is setting Belarus up. By the way, after our conversation, Ukrainian drones attacked oil depots in the Smolensk region. In fact, this is the infrastructure of Belarusian refineries.

I actually voiced a warning for Lukashenka from the Ukrainians. Unfortunately, he didn't listen to it. As a result, he got this answer. The fact is that the more Lukashenka participates in this war, the more threats come from the territory of Belarus, the more he exposes the territory of our country to these retaliatory strikes, including against such military facilities as the communication center of the Russian Navy in Vileika and the radar station, which is located between Baranavichy and Hantsevichy. Both of these facilities are very actively used by Russia throughout the war against Ukraine.

— Specify please, are these facilities in Vileika and Baranavichy part of the strategic shield of the Russian Federation?

— These facilities are actively used today by the Russian Air Force, the Russian Navy, the Russian Aerospace Forces in the war against Ukraine. I think that specialists in Ukraine are well aware of this. Both Putin and Lukashenka should realize that these two targets are quite real today for the Ukrainian armed forces.

— Natallia, oil depots in Smolensk, here we will note that on the territory of the Russian Federation, but this can affect the work of Belarusian refineries. But we state that Ukraine refrains from striking Russian military targets on the territory of Belarus, sending a signal to Lukashenka, trying to deter him from participating in a full-scale invasion. To what extent does the Belarusian dictator perceive this, in your opinion?

— I carefully watched his speech on May 9, when there were threats against Ukraine. It was just about nuclear exercises with Russia. Lukashenka stressed that there are no "red lines" for him. Apparently, this is his response to the "kind gesture" from Ukraine.

— Since two dictators — Russian and Belarusian — do not have any "red lines", what do you say, how do NATO member states react to this situation? I have already started asking you about this, but I will rephrase it more accurately. We have heard the initiative that was voiced by the leaders of the Polish government that if such a nuclear escalation develops, Poland will ask NATO member states to consider the possibility of deploying tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of this country. To what extent is this a real process of countering the nuclear expansion of the "united state" of Russia and Belarus?

— I think that this is quite possible, although, as far as I heard, in response to the proposal from Poland, it was said that so far NATO does not plan to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of this country, but as a response to the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, it seems to me that this is quite logical and absolutely understandable.

Another thing is that now these same nuclear exercises of Russia and Belarus, according to some experts, are just a response to Poland's statement and a request to NATO to deploy nuclear missiles on the territory of this country. Moreover, they thus respond to Macron, who said that French troops could participate in the war in Ukraine. And they also responded to British Foreign Secretary Cameron, who said that Ukraine could strike with British weapons at targets in Russia. It seems to me that it is important not to succumb to blackmail, to an intimidation attempt by Russia, but still to take the necessary measures to stop the Russian and Belarusian dictators.

— Meanwhile, NATO plans to conduct quite large-scale exercises, including in the north. And given that now there are two new members in NATO — Finland and Sweden — the flight time to strategically important Russian facilities is minimally reduced. If you compare, the Russians are shelling Kharkiv at the same distance. When the missile first arrives, and then the air raid alert siren starts because the distances are short.

To what extent is this an understandable and adequate signal to the main dictator in this tandem — Putin in Moscow, in your opinion?

— The signal is quite clear — this is a demonstration of combat readiness, and Moscow should understand that NATO, if there is an attack on one of the member states of the organization, will give a powerful response to Russian troops. I would also draw attention here to an article in La Repubblica, which reads that NATO is pushing back the "red lines" in a clash with Russia and is considering options for striking, including on the territory of Belarus, that is, on military facilities. As a Belarusian, I don't really want this to happen, but it seems that Lukashenka is forcing the military of NATO member states to consider even such options.

— Natallia, do you have any feedback from Belarus? I understand that you cannot speak for millions of people. But those people with whom you communicate, do they understand that Lukashenka exposes Belarus under threat? I'll put it as follows: it is under threat because the Russians are either trying to deploy nuclear weapons there or to frighten the outside world with this fact. How do Belarusians, your acquaintances, and they, as I understand it, are an intellectual public, react to this?

— People are terrified. They, of course, are aware of all the threats posed by the Lukashenka regime's active participation in the war against Ukraine. This deployment of nuclear weapons, it scares people very much. However, there is an understanding of the inevitable, that is, an understanding that if missiles fly from the territory of Belarus to Ukraine again or, God forbid, Russian troops enter together with the Belarusian army, or the most terrible scenario is that these nuclear tactical missiles will be used, people understand that there are no options and retaliatory strikes are possible.

— Natallia, what other signals did you notice in Lukashenka's speech during the parade on Red Square? You fixed his words that he does not have “red lines”. Does this mean that, as he said, "We with Russia, back-to-back, will fight with the whole world"? Previously, this gave the impression that Lukashenka wanted to get somehow out of this whole story, declare one thing and do the opposite. But what is the real situation now?

— Everything is clear. Lukashenka does not control anything in Belarus, the Belarusian army belongs to Russia. He is well aware of this, he cannot control anything that happens within the country, except, most likely, only internal repressions against the opposition, which have not stopped for the fourth year. In general, he cannot decide anything today. We saw it, including at the military parade in Moscow. This is such an old, decrepit person who is trying to threaten with something, to say something, but it is obvious to everyone that Lukashenka is a waste today. What Putin will decide to do, including with the participation of the Belarusian army and the Belarusian territory, that will happen. Lukashenka will not be able to interfere in any way here.

— Natallia, help us please to understand another signal from Lukashenka. The day after the parade in Moscow, he fired the chief of the General Staff of Belarus. I have a question for you. What does it mean? Does it mean that Putin will send him a new GS head?

— Probably. Because Viktar Hulevich was fired allegedly because of his age, but he is only 54 years old. I thought that this general may have had some "red lines", unlike Lukashenka. Maybe that's why he was so urgently dismissed, especially during the joint Russian-Belarusian nuclear exercises. Perhaps this general did not want to participate in some other terrible crime by both these regimes. And in his place will come a person more loyal and obedient to the Russian General Staff. But that's just one of my assumptions.

— Natallia, let's summarize, in your opinion, what are Putin and Lukashenka preparing for, given that intimidation is part of their policy? Blackmail, deception, misinformation and intimidation — they play this as a political tool. But looking at all these signals that we recalled today, in your opinion, what are Putin and Lukashenka preparing for?

— It seems to me that the situation is quite dangerous when everyone thinks that they are bluffing. Therefore, I read a lot of expert opinions, even regarding these nuclear exercises that are taking place. Everyone unanimously says that this is a bluff, that they are trying to intimidate the West, to deter Western intervention in the war in Ukraine and so on and so forth. It seems to me that this situation is roughly reminiscent of a fable about a boy and wolves, because in the end a herd of sheep was destroyed. It seems to me that dictators do not like to justify public opinion, including the opinion that they are only frightening. Let me remind you that on the eve of 2022, an absolute majority of experts stated that these joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises at the beginning of the year would not lead to any war. Only rare people bluntly said that this was the beginning of a full-scale offensive against Ukraine. That's what happened.

— That's true. It is necessary to get ready to repel any actions of the insane dictators of Russia and Belarus, what they call a "union state". Natallia Radzina, Belarusian journalist, Editor-in-Chief of the Charter'97 website, was in touch with us. Thank you, Natallia.

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