A US-backed coup and assassination plot against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been thwarted in a joint effort by security services of Belarus and Russia, the country’s senior intelligence official revealed.
“As a matter of fact, it was a plotted state coup,” Belarusian State Security Committee’s (KGB) Investigation Director Konstantin Bychek announced on Sunday during an interview with Belarus-1 TV channel, referring to the alleged plot which he said was “the first-ever criminal case on an attempt to seize power” in Belarus.
He further stated that some suspects involved in the alleged plot – including a dual US-Belarusian citizen – were taken into custody and cooperating with investigators.
“Investigative actions continue. The detained persons have been taken to a KGB detention center. They are cooperating with the investigation, giving confessions,” Bychek added, noting that officials have also “issued inquiries to competent justice agencies of foreign states for legal assistance in investigating this criminal case.”
The KGB official then identified the US citizen involved in the scheme as lawyer Yuri Zenkovich, accusing him of collaborating with US spy agencies and engaging in the recruit of Belarusian military service members to “topple” the nation’s authorities.
“Zenkovich was linked with US special services. In Belarus, he tried to recruit and contract servicemen of the Belarusian armed forces and law enforcement agencies who were ready to take part in violent overthrowing of the current authorities for money,” he declared.
He said that according to Belarus’ security services, the man had meetings with servicemen and with representatives of terrorist groups, including those that were nipped by the KGB. “We recorded two cases when illegal money payment meant for servicemen was deposited in secret hiding places,” Bychek said, adding that active search activities were held for six months.
Pointing to Russian cooperation in thwarting the alleged coup plot, Bychek said after receiving a tip in March 2021 about Zenkovich’s visit to Moscow, the KGB contacted our “Russian partners … about the possibility of sending a group of Belarusian agents to Russia.” He then underlined that the detention of the suspects “was conducted jointly with the Russian partners.”
‘A color revolution scenario’
According to a report by Russia’s TASS news agency, Lukashenko alleged on Saturday that Belarusian political analyst Alexander Feduta, opposition politician Grigory Kostusev as well as Zenkovich “had plotted an assassination attempt on him and his sons,” blaming “US special services and US leaders” for the scheme.
Speaking to Belarusian media, Lukashenko further insisted that the group which includes Zenkovich and Feduta was “definitely the work of foreign intelligence… most likely the CIA or the FBI.”
Pointing to the timing of the coup attempt, the report then cited Belarus’ KGB Chief Ivan Tertel as saying, “the plotters planned a coup for this summer, June or July.”
TASS further cited Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying that its agents had arrested Zenkovich and Feduta “on suspicion of plotting a military coup in Belarus and an assassination attempt on President Alexander Lukashenko,” describing the alleged plot as “a ‘color revolution’ scenario involving Ukrainian nationalists, and assassination of the Belarusian leader.”
US denies involvement as ‘absolutely untrue’
This is while a US State Department spokesman on Sunday denied Washington’s role in the foiled plot to topple and kill the Belarusian president, saying, “Any suggestion that the US government was behind or involved in an assassination attempt on Lukashenko is absolutely untrue.”
Pointing to the reports about the detention of “a dual US citizen” in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, the official added that the department was ready to provide “all appropriate consular services” to the suspect involved in the coup plot.
Opposition members dismiss plot charges as fantasy
According to an RT report, meanwhile, US-based members of the alleged coup plot, who remain free, have dismissed the allegations against them by Belarusian officials, saying “they were simply fantasizing about Lukashenko’s downfall.”
Citing a news story broadcast on Minsk-based ONT network showing Zoom meetings between alleged coup plotters, the report said participants of the video conferences were seven individuals that included the three arrested by security officers. It identified one of the four others as New York-based Pavel Kulazhenko, who denied the existence of a conspiracy and described the meetings as part of “an online discussion club.”
Kulazhenko further claimed that they merely spoke about “the same things that are discussed every evening in every Belarusian family – how to speed up Lukashenko’s retirement.”
Another participant in the Zoom meetings cited by RT was identified as Seattle-based Aleksandr Perepichko, who admitted that a coup was “a prime way to get rid of a bloody dictatorship,” further insisting that “it would have been unprofessional not to discuss various scenarios for regime change in Belarus.”
However, he denied Belarusian official charges that the alleged plotters went further than “venting their dislike of Lukashenko’s rule on Zoom.”
The RT report further pointed out that the ONT segment aired on Sunday also included hidden camera footage of what appeared to be the meeting in Moscow “in which Zenkovich and Feduta detailed their suggestions on how to conduct a successful armed coup.”
They discussed how Lukashenko needs to be “disposed of” and at least 30 in Minsk – presumably top officials – need to be “interned literally within the first hour.”
Russia’s FSB also described the plan discussed during the meeting as involving the killing of “almost the entire leadership” of Belarus, a military coup, and a power blackout of the entire country.
“It was suggested that the active phase would be launched by some armed groups (‘partisans’), who are currently stationed at ‘secret bases’,” the FSB stated.
The action was reportedly scheduled for May 9, when Belarus holds a military parade dedicated to the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, the RT report said.