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How the security forces suppress protests in Belarus?

This post was published in Infosecurity24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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WARSAW, (BM) – Protests began in many cities in Belarus shortly after the elections on the evening of August 9-10 and continued on the second day. The most tense situation was in the Belarusian capital, where the security forces used water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades. On the second day of the protests, the first death toll was recorded.

The Ministry of the Interior of Belarus (Belarusian MUS) published a statement: “On the night of August 9-10, 2020, clusters of people were registered in the country near polling stations and in central squares in 33 towns. In total, about 3 were detained for participating in unsanctioned mass gatherings. thousand people throughout the country – about 1,000 in Minsk and over 2,000 in other regions of the republic.” On the evening of the second day after the elections, the protests continued and the security forces were better prepared.

The authorities made sure to bring large security forces to Minsk, but they probably underestimated the scale of the protests. The core of the intervention and order forces were the compact militia unit – OMON – equipped with shields, helmets, body guards, supported by special vehicles with water cannons. Later, additional forces were brought to the streets of Minsk in the form of compact units of the Internal Forces of the Ministry of the Interior. There was a lack of coordination among the protesters, which in turn facilitated the pacification of the crowd in certain places.

On the post-election evening, August 9-10, initially the security forces were weak in many places (one line of the OMON), the officers densely covered themselves with bang grenades (P1 grenades of Czech production). Over time, after reinforcements arrived, demonstrators began to be pushed back and dispersed in key places in the city center. Protesters built makeshift barricades, attacked the security forces with stones, paving stones, sticks, rails, etc., on the second day they started using “Molotov cocktails”.

In the face of many victims injured by shrapnel, rubber bullets, blast grenades, beaten and injured with the use of tear gas (it was used, for example, on Niamidze), the medical security of the capital turned out to be insufficient. According to the protesters, the Minsk ambulance service was bringing additional ambulances to the center, and rescuers used replacement dressings, e.g. adhesive tape. There were probably – by estimation – at least several dozen injured, we are talking about even 120 injured. One of the protesters was said to have been run over by a police truck with the fatal result, but later found out he was alive.

The injured were also among the security forces. The injuries mainly concerned OMON-U, about 25 officers [most of them had injuries to their arms and legs]. According to the release, medical assistance was provided to 39 security forces and 50 civilians, i.e. demonstrators [the latter number seems to be understated].

The soldiers of the WW MSW also suffered, which is confirmed by the use of the internal troops in the pacification of the demonstration. A large branch of the WW MSW was to come in about 20 trucks, near Storożewska Street. The unit was prepared to support OMON – the soldiers had helmets, armor, bracers, leg guards, etc., typical for breaking the crowd. The WW troops dispersed the crowd on an important section – the intersection of Storożewska Street and Maszerowo prospect (the demonstrators scattered).

Firearms were not used on the night of August 9-10, but it is possible that there were special units armed with firearms (e.g. snipers) in reserve, similarly to the Ukrainian Maidan. On the other hand, special forces, most likely SSO MO RB (Special Operations Forces of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus) on the outskirts of Minsk, were fully equipped. They strengthened the militia patrols on the outskirts of the city [Donfeng Mengshi stations with carts, called Bogatyr in Belarus, and popularly “Chinese Humvee”].

The fights on the first day of the protests lasted until 3-4 at night. During the day, special-purpose units appeared in Minsk, more firearms were seen, live ammunition was still not used. On the second day, the fighting concentrated in three places: at the Puszkińska metro station, in front of the Riga shopping center and on Kalwaryjska Street.

One of the sub-units of the special-purpose forces was identified as the elite officer Spetsnaz of the KGB “Alfa”. Another branch of the special forces, captured in the evening in the area of ​​the Puszkińska metro station, may be a sub-unit of the SOBR of the Ministry of the Interior. Officers of the rapid reaction forces subunit are armed, inter alia, Italian Benelli M4 shotguns [from which they shoot blunt ammunition], German MP5 submachine guns with EOTech sights and AK-74 carbines.

As already mentioned, the second day of the protests resulted in a death toll. In the evening, at Prospekt Priteckiego, the crowd erected barricades blocking the traffic, there was a confrontation with a special purpose unit of militia or internal troops, who came to unblock the square. According to the official version, one of the protesters tried to throw an unidentified explosive at the officers but sustained fatal injuries when it exploded in his hand.

So far, there is no reason to believe that the security forces will not be able to cope with the protests and that military units will enter the action. Admittedly, Lukashenka threatened to enter the streets of Minsk by special forces from the 5th Special Purpose Brigade (Special Operations Forces of MO RB), and even subunits of the 120th Mechanized Brigade, but it was probably an element of frightening the opposition and closing the ranks of the security apparatus. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that on July 28, 2020, Lukashenka visited JW 3214 WW Ministry of the Interior in Minsk for a reason, where he watched a demonstration campaign to disperse the crowd of protesters.

It is estimated that if protests take place only in Minsk, the current authorities can rest easy – the militia and OMON forces will be enough to pacify the demonstrations. However, when mass protests “spill over” into provinces, such as cities with a population of 100,000, the forces of regional militia and OMON may be too weak to contain the situation by force. Then Lukashenka will be able to reach for other structures, the so-called power block.

Demonstrations took place in many cities in Belarus, and in Pinsk a number of OMON had to withdraw under the pressure of the crowd. The decisive situation, however, will be the situation in Minsk, where the security forces are brutal and determined to disperse the demonstration. Most (all?) Officers of the power bloc voted for Lukashenka and believe that these are unsanctioned, illegal demonstrations that must be suppressed and distracted. On August 10 in the evening, the head of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, Yury Karajeu, said: “We will not destabilize the situation in Belarus, we have enough resources and resources to do so.”

There is no doubt that so far only part of the security forces have been used in pacification operations. Special units, also with firearms and live ammunition, are hidden in the shadows. There is no doubt that they are in combat readiness. It is worth quoting the words of the head of the KGB, who suggests [rather incorrectly, the opposition did not ask for the protection of the staff] that a unit of 120 officers, probably KGB special forces “Alfa”, was assigned to protect the combined opposition headquarters on the post-election night.

The words about the tactics of using the sub-unit are characteristic: “They [the officers – editor’s note] tried not to attract attention, but their presence was obvious”.

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