“Criminal order or not… We are military people”

A closed-door speech by the Minister of Defence to officers

20 August 2020, 18:10 | Nasha Niva

On 19 August, Defence Minister Viktar Khrenin met with heads of structural units of the Ministry of Defence, the General Staff and the Armed Forces at the Central House of Officers in Minsk.

The Minister spoke for a little over an hour, the purpose of the meeting was to inform the leading officers about the situation in the country. Those present handed over an audio recording of the session to the editorial office of “Nasha Niva”.

Viktar Khrenin
Source: Nasha Niva

The speech could be loosely divided into two parts: in the first part, Khrenin repeated the key points of Lukashenka’s address to the parliament and the president’s speech at a rally in his support, while in the second, Khrenin spoke for himself.

Below are the excerpts from the first part of his speech:

The citizens of the country supported Lukashenka in the election by a majority vote. However, during the three nights from 9 to 12 August, there were a few attempts to seize power by force. These attempts were coordinated from overseas. Organised groups, armed with knives, sticks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks, started the confrontation. Destructive mass media portrayed this as a violent dispersal of peaceful protests, demonising the law enforcement officers.

Since 12 August, the antagonistic forces turned to new tactics: overwhelming the system with appeals alleging election illegitimacy, forming the so-called ‘chains of solidarity’ alongside roads, consisting mainly of girls and women, all of whom allegedly opposed the use of force against peaceful protesters. These forces have also organised a nationwide strike, called for blocking of the streets, and applied informational and psychological pressure on law enforcement officers and members of the election commissions.

To form the opinion of electoral fraud amongst the international community, the destructive mass media cloned a number of (primarily) Western politicians, amongst whom there are traditionally representatives of the USA, Poland and Lithuania. Analysis shows that the election outcome is portrayed in a negative light.

Despite the provocations of the enemies of the state within the Republic, as well as a powerful external influence, large numbers of people, not only within our country but also in Ukraine, support the actions of the President of Belarus. According to a survey by a Ukrainian TV channel [inaudible] on YouTube, 91% of 455 subscribers support Lukashenka. This fact suggests that ordinary people who have witnessed the war in Donbass, understand what protests may lead to.

There is a clear distortion of reality, the opposition media inflates the number of rally participants, without disclosing that this number represents an insignificant percentage of the electorate. In particular, the opposition media claimed that about 200,000 people allegedly gathered near the Hero City Stella in Minsk, and about half a million across the country. Let’s get to the bottom of this: analysis of Russian Aerospace Forces aerial shots shows that at its peak the number of protesters didn’t exceed 40 thousand people. This represents less than 2% of the capital’s residents. And this is the case in all other cities.

Rally participants are an absolute minority. These are the same 10-12% who voted for Tsikhanouskaya.

The opposition programme is to leave the CIS, EEU, and the Union State by the end of the year. It will ban all Russian TV broadcasts, replacing it with broadcasting from Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine. It also includes the exit from the CSTO, the autocephaly for the Belarusian Orthodox Church, and the switching of the entire education system to the Belarusian language.

After repeating these key points of state propaganda, Khrenin moved away from memorised phrases and began to speak for himself. This part of his speech seems more interesting. It is full of reflection and shows what the military is prepared for.

We, the military, are obliged to assess the situation accurately. We have to explain to our subordinates in layman’s terms what is happening in the Republic, what is the actual purpose of this campaign against the country.

Today it is important to prevent the emergence of any doubt. The results of this work should be seen as the most crucial criterion for assessing the competence of those responsible for implementing public policy.

War has come to our home. The whole country is at its epicentre. Whoever invented the colour revolutions drew conclusions from the First and Second World Wars: a large army is not very successful in achieving goals. Back then, they wanted to accomplish the goal with a powerful army, through a sea of ​​blood — this did not work. Our people persevered, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Victory. But those political strategists, the Totenkopfs, did not give up on their goals. Immediately after the war, they were already thinking about how to destroy us, little by little, without bloodshed.

The sanctions they threaten us with… Please, we’ll survive! Just look at the harvest our grain farmers gather, it will allow us not to starve. There will be bread, milk, meat; we do not need foreign gimcrack. Our factories are working, we are producing equipment, we have everything we need for a normal life.

We all have the potential to protest. There is a sofa at home, but in two years we realise that we should move it to a different corner. This is the protest potential, and political strategists understand it.

Militants are getting ready in Ukraine, citizens are being gathered.

The people who leave the forces are few and far between. They changed their colours very quickly, and started slinging mud at us. Those political strategists who write Tsikhanouskaya’s speeches are asking the army: are you with the people, will you shoot at the people? We are urged, among others, by Tsikhanouskaya who says: do not follow criminal orders. This woman urges us to betray, to break the law — not to obey orders. Whether these orders are criminal or not — we are military people. The state system has not collapsed, it works, the president has been elected.

Until the army joins the protesters, it is impossible to destroy the state. We are the hope. We are not demoralised.

We must fight and if need be — armed with weapons. We must fight for the country, for ourselves, for our families, and for those teachers who are scared and afraid.

Some officers received threats. There was an incident in the Air Force, I forgot his last name, well, it doesn’t matter. At the training he said: “I do not want to serve, fire me.” It all happened after his wife received a text message [inaudible]. He came and took the report. I said, issue such officers a gun. I never thought it would happen that we would walk around armed with weapons. Most people are scared. We are their only hope — we will defend them.

I told the commanders: there are statutes written in blood. The sentry’s duties are written there, and today the whole army is the sentry. And there is an instruction on weapons use. In case of infringement, the sentry is obliged to give the command: “Halt! Who goes there?” We have already done so, and we can see who goes there. Then the statute states that if the violator continues to move, the sentry is obliged to give the next command: “Stop, or I will shoot!” We are now practically giving this command to prevent further movement of the infringer. In cases where after this command the intruder continues to move, the sentry is obliged to fire a warning shot. This is so we don’t shoot to kill. But if they continue to move forward — we will make that shot…

If the sentry is all out of commands, or if he is in danger, he is obliged to shoot to kill.

We don’t want to do it, but this is the sentry’s duty, your and my duty, the duty of the entire army. Perhaps some of them want us to do it so that we could then be accused of genocide of our people because when weapons are used, peaceful people die.

Yes, it’s all understandable, and yes, we might go into a civil war. The price of human life is losing value every day. It’s horrendous. It is possible that there may be a military conflict; today it is a reality.

Our task is to prevent the warning shot.

[Those in doubt] better leave now, at the command ‘Stop, or I will shoot.’ Leaving during the following commands will be a betrayal, the worst of human vices. When you look someone in the eye, trust them, and then get stabbed in the back.