Staunton, May 31 –Belarusians are now being trained in a camp in Russia that is headed by an openly fascist Russian nationalist, an arrangement that Moscow might exploit against Minsk by claiming there are “extreme Belarusian nationalists” that the Russians must intervene to put down and one that could be a model for Kremlin actions in other post-Soviet states.
The commandant of the camp, Aleksey Milchakov, has confirmed to RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service that young Belarusians are there now (svaboda.org/a/27742409.html). And as Kseniya Kirillova, a US-based Russian journalist points out, Milchakov has never concealed his neo-Nazi sympathies (ru.krymr.com/content/article/27765937.html).
She notes that he has frequently been photographed with flags displaying the swastika and as a commander of the pro-Moscow “Rusich” brigade in the Donbass proudly showed himself to be a killer of Ukrainians (eotperm.ru/?p=2760). At the same time, he has demonstrated that he is ever more closely tied with the Russian government.
According to Kirillova, this rapprochement rose to “a qualitatively new level” when Michalkov took part in a meeting with Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s troubleshooter, and received a reward from Sergey Aksyonov, the head of the Russian occupation administration in Crimea (eotperm.ru/?p=4961).
Officials in the Belarusian capital are thus increasingly concerned about “the attempt to involve [Belarusian] young people in the latest neo-Nazi project of ‘the Russian world.’” Indeed, Yury Tsarik of Minsk’s Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research says the expert community is taking this latest Russian action “quite seriously.”
For many years, Tsarik says, there have been Belarusian young people involved in patriotic camps inside Belarus. But “before the war in Ukraine, the situation didn’t generate particular worries.” Now, however, these camps are suspect and even more suspect are camps in Russia where Belarusians are being trained.
Not only are such trainees being told that Belarus and other post-Soviet states are simply accidents of history that must be corrected, the Minsk researcher says; but there are real fears that they could be used directly or indirectly to undermine Belarusian sovereignty, either as shock troops for Russia or as supposed radicals Moscow might use to justify intervention.
Concerns are especially great now, Tsarik says, because Belarus is exploring closer ties with the West and Moscow will do whatever it can to block them. As a result, the use of “hard” power now cannot be excluded, and many errors could be committed that could trigger a disaster.