On February 28, it was reported that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Karim Khan, opened an investigation into the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine, even though the country is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, citing «the existence of reasonable grounds for opening an investigation.»
«I will also be asking for the support of all participating States and the international community as a whole as my Bureau conducts its investigations,» Prosecutor Khan said, after already instructing his team to explore every avenue for collecting evidence.
Later it became known that on March 7 and 8, the International Court of Justice in The Hague will hold hearings on Ukraine’s appeal to Russia’s accusations of genocide. The subject of the hearings will be Ukraine’s request to determine interim measures.
Immediately following Prosecutor Khan’s announcement, Ukrainian volunteers created the TRIBUNAL.UA online platform to record evidence of alleged war crimes committed by the Russian army against the people of Ukraine. The testimonies, documents, photos, and video materials collected will be used during the development of the international process. Considering that the attitude of Ukrainians towards Lukashenko has plummeted, there is no doubt that the regimes’ actions will be documented on this and other platforms. Many Telegram channels and FB communities already, for example, Belaruski Gayun or Kharytonau, are dedicated to the presence of Russian troops in Belarus and the use of its territory for attacks on its southern neighbor.
In Khan’s statement, it is noted that the investigation will cover crimes «committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine.» European politicians are already openly calling the Lukashenko regime an aggressor in this war, so it is not surprising if the venerated desire of opposition-minded Belarusians to «send Sanya to The Hague» will be realized much faster than those who took part.
Almost no one has any doubts that Alexander Lukashenko, who has constantly played his trump card of a «peaceful and stable Belarus,» provided the territory of Belarus for the implementation of Russian aggression because he has lost his political weight and independence to such an extent and is now providing logistical and military assistance to the Russian army. As has happened many times, on the eve of the attack and during this war the Belarusian dictator has violated promises made to fellow citizens earlier (for example, that Russian soldiers will go home after the Allied Resolve-2022 exercises) and gets confused in his own statements and announcements. As iSANS reported earlier, at a meeting with the military on February 24, Alexander Lukashenko stressed that Belarusian troops were not taking part in the «operation in Donbass,» but immediately demonstrated his readiness to send the military «if Russia and Belarus need them» (ONT video), and also said that Belarus would like to deploy Iskanders and S-400 Triumphs and other «modern equipment» on its territory, saying that they had already «agreed on this with Putin.» He also confirmed that rockets were launched from Belarus at positions in Ukraine, but, in his words, this was a step they were forced to take because «missile battalions were deployed on the Ukrainian side, a few kilometers from the border with Belarus, and were ready to strike at Russian positions within minutes.» In addition, according to eyewitnesses, wounded Russian soldiers are being taken to hospitals in the border areas. It is also possible that the bodies of the dead are being transported to Belarus to hide their true number.
But since Alexander Lukashenko has his personal interests and the interests of his family first, he is still trying to extract himself from the situation at least somewhat «cleanly» and has not yet agreed to the participation of the Belarusian army in ground combat operations. Putin’s entrance into the political arena just over 20 years ago was a huge blow for the former head of the Gorodets collective farm. In the late 90s, he saw himself as the president of not even Belarus, but even of Russia or the Union State. At the time, Boris Yeltsin was growing old, and the young politician Lukashenko was gaining popularity among the part of the Russian electorate that was still nostalgic for the Soviet past and a «strong hand.» When it became clear that the opportunity for the Kremlin throne had disappeared, he was forced to change his plan of action. Lukashenko subjugated the parliament, destroyed the opposition (literally and figuratively), surrounded himself with loyal people, and became the sole ruler of Belarus, ensuring a comfortable existence for himself and his family for many years to come. He understands that to maintain this, he must remain the «president eternal,» because even the most seemingly loyal ally can show their true face if they gain strength. The situation in Kazakhstan only increased Lukashenko’s fears.
Against the background of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the so-called referendum in Belarus has faded, however, as the CEC controlled by Lukashenko claims, the referendum took place. 65.16% of voters who came (4,440,813 Belarusian citizens) spoke in favor of the amendments to the Belarusian Constitution proposed by the regime.
According to the new version, the so-called All-Belarusian People’s Assembly was granted the status of «the highest representative body of the people’s power» and, with it, enormous powers, including the following: authority to remove the president from office in case of systematic violation of the Constitution or in case of treason; introduce martial law and state of emergency; elect and remove Supreme and Constitutional Court chairpersons and judges; form the Central Election Commission and consider the issue of election legitimacy; issue binding instructions to state bodies and officials; and make the decision to send military personnel to participate in operations outside of Belarus.
At the same time, the new Constitution introduces restrictions on the number of presidential terms (no more than 2), but at the same time resets Lukashenko’s terms to zero. That is, he will have the right to be elected twice more and remain in the presidency until 2035. After leaving office, the former president is guaranteed immunity and a life-long seat in the National Assembly and in the Council of the Republic.
As is seen, Lukashenko tried to play it safe from all sides, because the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly will include people who are completely loyal to him and who will not benefit from his being replaced. Even before the 2020 protests, it became obvious that Lukashenko wants to make one of his sons his «heir,» choosing for this a strategy of «waiting out» Vladimir Putin while feeding him promises of eternal friendship, cooperation, and integration in exchange for financial assistance. Given his special affection for his youngest son, it is possible that he sees Nikolai, who turns 18 this year, as a future leader. If necessary, the loyal Assembly would always be able to lower the age limit for a presidential candidate. But since the multi-vector policy has failed and Lukashenko is now an outcast in the international arena, he has been left alone with Vladimir Putin, who is seizing the moment to put enormous pressure on him. If the Belarusian army joins the aggressive actions of Russian troops who have already committed several war crimes (intentional shooting at residential areas in cities, the use of high-explosive, phosphorus, and cluster munitions, etc.), Lukashenko will very likely be recognized as a war criminal along with Putin, in which case his plans for transition of power are jeopardized. The family of a war criminal will not feel safe anywhere, which is why Lukashenko is apparently still looking to preserve if only the tatters that remain of his reputation and is not sending Belarusian soldiers to Ukraine (mentioning this at every opportunity), hoping in the future to explain that he was «forced» by the Kremlin to provide support.
For example, yesterday Lukashenko said that Belarusian troops would not take part in hostilities in Ukraine, but at the same time stressed that air defense systems were put on alert in the country to prevent attacks on Russian troops.
«The Belarusian army has not taken part and will not take any part in the hostilities. We can prove it to anyone. Moreover, the Russian leadership has never put the question of our participation in the armed conflict before us. We are not going to participate more in this special operation in Ukraine. There is no need. We are covering the state border from Brest to Mozyr with our own forces to prevent radicals and weapons from entering the country.»
Moreover, the Belarusian pro-government media and Telegram channels seem to have been tasked with spreading the «we are not there» message as widely as the Kremlin’s disinformation messages. For example, the BelTA news agency quotes Lukashenko saying the following: «The Americans admitted that they do not see the Armed Forces of Belarus taking part in this operation.» The Television News Agency also quotes him as saying, «This is in response to the statements made by the fugitive scoundrels who conducted their campaign throughout Belarus, that tomorrow these, and these, and these units will be launched into Ukrainian territory. I have not made any decision. And without my decision, these units cannot even be taken out of the barracks.» And all posts from «official» sources are immediately picked up by bloggers and government-controlled Telegram channels.
Moreover, Lukashenko has not yet lost hope that the civilized world will recognize his legitimacy and even count on his role as peacemaker in the Ukrainian-Russian war. For example, recently Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed with him issues surrounding negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow and sanctions against Belarus and Russia. Regarding this, political scientist Alexander Shpakovsky drew the following conclusion: «It is interesting that over the past 2 days, the ‘illegitimate’ Lukashenko held telephone conversations with the presidents of France, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey and served as the organizer of the negotiation process between Kyiv and Moscow, which has all the prerequisites for the transition to a stable format in Belarus.» He also reproached «colleagues who are in a superpatriotic frenzy» who believe that Belarus needs to join Russia’s military operation, and calls such a step «a serious mistake that will only strengthen the negative view created by Ukrainian and NATO propaganda against our country.»
Lukashenko can recall with nostalgia February 2015, when a real negotiating platform appeared in the Belarusian capital and the Minsk agreements were signed. Given his shameful role in the current war, however, Ukraine will never agree to send its representatives to Belarus, meaning that the laurels of a peacemaker could only appear only in his inflamed consciousness. But Lukashenko does not want to give up his dream and trumpets everywhere of his role in organizing the current negotiations on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. Considering his precarious position in his own country though and keeping in mind the presence of Russian troops there, he would be better off thinking about how not to be included as War Criminal No. 2 in the list now being compiled by the Hague prosecutor. The chances of this increase significantly if the Belarusian soldiers follow his orders to kill Ukrainians.
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