On August 23, the presidential press office made available recordings of Alyaksandr Lukashenka getting out of a state-flag livery helicopter. He was wearing a bulletproof vest and holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle (at first, there was no magazine).
The Belarusian leader got well-equipped to visit one of his residences – the Palace of Independence in Minsk. On the spot, a senior officer, probably the commander of the forces guarding the palace, reported to him. On the same day, his press secretary Natallya Eysmant confirmed that Lukashenka was accompanied by his 15-year-old son Mikalai; the teenager was uniformed and armed.
Earlier, a column of peaceful protesters who were heading to the Square of State Emblem and Flag Square was stopped by the cordon of OMON riot police and military not far from the Palace. Armoured personnel carriers, water cannons and the so-called movable barricades (special anti-riot vehicles) were also pulled in to the builing.
However, the demonstrators just stood calmly before moving back; no one tried to provoke the troops. A middle-aged woman holding an icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn knelt down to the cordon. She was not detained.
State-run news agency BełTA published a video of Lukashenka’s flight over downtown Minsk, where New Belarus March was taking place. One can heard him saying: ‘They have scattered away like rats!’ Interestingly, he might have inspected the places which the protesters had no access to.
Lukashenka’s spokeswoman posted another video that shows the president taking his AK, leaving the palace’s premises and walking down Victors’ Avenue. Surrounded by bodyguards, he addressed the siloviki: “Guys, thank you! You rock, men! We’ll deal with them soon!” In turn, the officers and soldiers promised to defend him ‘to the end’.