Belarus role in mediating end to Russian conflict

By Otis Grotewohl
June 28, 2023

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, sworn in after winning 80% of the vote in 2020.

Imperialist figureheads and their corporate media lackeys were gleeful over the internal tensions between Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the private paramilitary organization known as the Wagner Group, and Russian military leaders of the fighting in Ukraine. The same media were giddy when the tensions broke out into open conflict June 23 and subdued when the conflict quickly ended June 24.

Prigozhin’s Wagner soldiers had been operating on the same side as official Russian troops against U.S.- and NATO-funded Ukrainian forces, ever since the Russian intervention in February 2022.

The Western media had been hostile towards Prigozhin for over a year, demonizing him as a mercenary boss. Suddenly, this same media were happy to report his critical statements against the Russian military and President Vladimir Putin, when Prigozhin threatened to send Wagner forces toward Moscow. The Wagner leader said his soldiers successfully seized all the military installments in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, near Ukraine’s border with Russia. (The Guardian, June 24)

News about the conflict came shortly after it was revealed that there was a Pentagon accounting error that mysteriously led to another $6.2 billion of U.S. military aid to Ukraine. (AP, June 20) The corporate media was not as enthusiastic about covering that story.

Mediation by Alexander Lukashenko

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered to mediate the conflict between Prigozhin and Russian officials on June 24. Lukashenko has known both Prigozhin and Putin for over 20 years. The Belarusian President held meetings with Russian security and defense leaders in the morning and afternoon of June 25. He had also been in contact with Putin and Prigozhin.

As a result of the two day-long meetings, Prigozhin agreed to honor Lukashenko’s proposal to stop the advancement of Wagner’s armed units in Russia’s territory and on furthering steps meant to deescalate tensions. The Wagner leader also ordered his fighters to retreat from Rostov-on-Don.

To the disappointment of the imperialists, Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov publicly thanked Lukashenko for brokering the agreement between the Wagner Group and Russia. Peskov further added that Russia will not persecute Wagner soldiers who had taken part in the alleged “armed mutiny.” (Belta, June 25)

Since the U.S. and NATO spokespeople, along with their media puppets, were disappointed by the quick resolution of the “coup,” they have resumed their Russophobic, demonization campaign, including attacking Prigozhin and stepping up the attacks on Lukashenko. Prigozhin was reported to be on his way to Belarus.

In 2020, the Western corporate media went into a frenzy against Lukashenko’s 2020 reelection, where he received roughly 80% of the vote for the sixth time in a row. Lukashenko has strong support among the Communist Party of Belarus. The only party he ever belonged to is the now-dissolved Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Despite political differences regarding the counterrevolution of the former Soviet Union, Lukashenko has been a close ally of Putin over the years.

Solidarity from anti-imperialists

Upon hearing about both the Russian conflict, as well as the outcome of the mediation, several anti-imperialist leaders expressed international solidarity with the Russian government.

Speaking at an event commemorating the Day of the Bolivarian Army, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stated, From Venezuela, all our support is for President Vladimir Putin, Venezuela’s brother.” He also applauded, “at this time (Putin) is victorious with Russia at peace.” (RT, June 25)

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said both the Caribbean country and its people expressed their solidarity with the Russian leader “in the face of attempts to provoke an armed rebellion.”

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also expressed solidarity with Russia about reversing the Wagner march, as did other anti-imperialists and communists around the world. Borotba, a communist organization based in Ukraine, was among those who have expressed solidarity with Russia.

When asked about China’s reaction to the events in Russia, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said: “As Russia’s friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination for the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity, and we believe in Russia’s ability to do so.” (Global Times, June 26)

Who is the Wagner Group?

Prior to 2014, Prigozhin operated several restaurant and catering companies that provided services for the Russian government. In 2014, he established the Wagner Group as a private, for-profit mercenary military organization, which has fought alongside the Russian military in several conflicts.

In Ukraine, Wagner fought against Kiev’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion when the Kiev regime used Azov to attack those provinces of the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which had declared independence from the Kiev regime in 2014. The Azov Battalion operates within the Ukrainian military and leads Ukraine’s National Guard.

In addition to combating Azov Battalion-led military forces in Ukraine, the Wagner Group has also fought in Syria against U.S.- and NATO-backed forces and in Mali and Burkina Faso. Imperialist powers such as the U.S. and France have both created and exploited instability as a pretext for military intervention. Some of the governments view the Wagner Group as an alternative to domination by the imperialists.

In the short term, an internal conflict between Wagner and the Russian military can weaken this alternative to imperialist domination. If this conflict were to develop into a coup or civil war, it could threaten a change in the Russian government that made it subservient to Western imperialist interests. That’s the sort of regime change U.S. strategists dream of. Lukashenko’s successful mediation therefore set back imperialism’s initial giddy reaction.