Whenever the war in Ukraine is in the news, there are often also headlines about neighboring Belarus: For example, official reports that are being deployed there, as well as rumors about the health of the 68-year-old Belarusian ruler .
Now Russian state media has gone a step further: “Information about the preparation of a coup in Belarus by the West has been confirmed in Poland” reported the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday, May 24.
The allegation was quickly picked up, substantially altered, and circulated by other Russian and Belarusian media. So it was that, shortly afterwards, a Russian newspaper headline announced: “Polish general plans to organize and support armed coup in Belarus.”
One Twitter user went even further, writing in English: “The West is preparing an armed coup in Belarus with the support of the Polish army.” These supposed plans would also support Lukashenko’s warning, in a speech this March, that the West wants to invade Belarus and wipe it out.
Lukashenko and Peskov respond to alleged coup plans
Even Alexander Lukashenko himself and Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov went along with the media storm, and reacted to the supposed remarks from Poland. The Belarusian ruler saw them as confirmation of his earlier comments about the danger from the West, describing the Polish general as “sick,” and saying he was ready for a possible uprising in Belarus. For his part, Peskov called Poland an “enemy state,” accused Warsaw of hysterical Russophobia and intentional interference, and asserted that Russia would protect Belarus from “such a blatant threat.”
So what is the truth about the claim that the West is preparing an uprising in Belarus? And what role does a supposed Polish general have to play in all this? The DW Fact Check team has examined the claim.
“The Polish General Skrzypczak confirmed the information about the preparation of a coup in Belarus by the West,” reported RIA Novosti, citing comments supposedly made by a Polish general called Waldemar Skrzypczak in an interview with the Polish broadcaster Polsat News. Skrzypczak allegedly said: “Poland is preparing for an armed coup in Belarus, and to participate in supporting this by military means.”
DW Fact Check: False
In fact, Skrzypczak, who is actually a retired general, spoke on May 23 in the Polsat News programme Gosc Wydarzen about . He said that he saw them as a first sign, and expressed hope this would spread to other parts of Russian territory. “And hopefully also to part of the territory of Belarus,” he added. So by this he meant that he personally hoped the partisans would advance further into Russia, and also into Belarus.
Skrzypczak also made a prediction about what will happen if a , which has been much talked about recently, is successful. He predicted that Belarusians in the Ukrainian army who have been fighting against the Russians would not lay down their weapons, but would go to Belarus. He added: “I hope that this will trigger an uprising in Belarus.” Skrzypczak was presumably referring to the hundreds of Belarusian volunteers in the Kastus Kalinouski regiment, who are fighting on the side of Ukraine. These Belarusians fled their homeland after mass protests were quashed by the Lukashenko regime.
‘Skrzypczak is expressing his personal opinion’
When asked by the interviewer what the response should be should such an “internal war” break out in Belarus, Skrzypczak replied: “We should prepare for it now! […] I think it’s now time to prepare for it. It will happen.”
He was therefore not saying that Poland or the West were preparing an armed coup in Belarus, nor was he calling for this to be initiated. Skrzypczak merely stressed that, in his opinion, there would be an uprising in Belarus for which Poland needed to prepare.
In the rest of the TV program, Skrzypczak did not explain what he specifically meant by preparation. For example, he only said that the partisans who fought in Belgorod were equipped and trained. At the same time, he cited reasons why Poland should be prepared “to support the troops that will conduct operations against Lukashenko.” Skrzypczak referred to the on the Polish-Belarusian border in the summer and autumn of 2021. After the West tightened sanctions against Belarus, Lukashenko announced in May 2021 that he would no longer prevent migrants from continuing their journey into the EU. This led to thousands trying to cross the border from Belarus into Poland, which is part of the EU.
And in response to a question of what effect such an uprising in Belarus might have in Poland, Skrzypczak spoke of Belarusians fleeing to Poland as a result: “If there is an uprising in Belarus, and we have to prepare for that, there will be an exodus of people from Belarus to northern Poland.”
Responding to an enquiry from DW, a Polish defense ministry spokesperson emphasized that Skrzypczak’s remarks were “merely the private opinion” of the retired general. The press office also pointed out that General Skrzyczak was not an advisor to the ministry of defense and did not hold any positions there.
With the assistance of Kathrin Wesolowski.
This article has been translated from German.
The post Fact check: False claims in Russian media about supposed plans for a coup in Belarus appeared first on Deutsche Welle.