The Residence of Prime Minister Oleg Shorets
April 21st 22:40 (19:40 GMT)
Oleg sat in a plush leather chair and swirled the ice cubes in his glass. The ticking of the clock on the mantle drew his attention. He’s forty minutes late. A wave of panic washed over him and sitting down only made it worse. He stood up, paced back and forth as he played over in his mind what the probable cause was that could be delaying his colleague. He tipped up his glass. Empty! I need another.
Aleksandr Roshenko was the deputy prime minister and also someone that Oleg considered a close friend. They were both disgusted at the way President Vladimir Solonovich had hijacked their country and turned it into what the rest of the world considered the last dictatorship in Europe.
Belarus won its independence from Russia on July 3rd, 1991 but has seen limited structural reform since the president put the country on the path of “market socialism” in 1995. He was able to end presidential term limits allowing him to run for a third, fourth or as many terms as he wanted. Since then, threats of terrorism had risen, corruption was common and riots, once rampant, were finally squashed against the fear of arrest, imprisonment or the coincidental untimely death of those that organized them.
Behind closed doors, Oleg and Aleksandr had often spoken of what could be done to take back control and get rid of the dictator president, but fear had always been an issue. It wasn’t until the most recent elections last December, when several of the competing candidates who contested the election results were either arrested or simply disappeared, that they finally decided to act.
Oleg poured himself another drink and gulped it down. He wiped the sweat from his brow as his anxiety grew. Where are you, my friend? One last check. On the bar was a small electronic device that detected any surveillance or listening devices. He held it in the air and walked around the room for the third time in less than an hour.
He glanced toward the clock again when the gleam of headlights raced across the wall. Oleg shuffled toward the corner of the window and peered out. He was halfway expecting to see the KGB coming in with their weapons drawn. When he saw the single car, he ran his hands through his thick black dyed hair and let out a deep sigh. The anxiety faded and was replaced with relief. Finally!
Proposing a coup, much less getting away with it, would take careful planning and timing. Everything would have to be planned in excruciating detail and executed flawlessly; and tonight was the night Oleg was going to go layout his plan to Aleksandr.
The footsteps down the hall grew closer. The door opened and his friend finally walked into his office.
Oleg wasted no time in scolding his friend. “You’re late.”
“It couldn’t be helped. Minister Litwin would not shut-up about the damn power plant.”
Oleg’s patience was at its limit and Aleksandr coming in and complaining didn’t help. His lips tightened but then relaxed before he spoke. “That damn power plant you’re referring to…” Suddenly remembering something, Oleg held up a finger. He reached into his pocket and retrieved a small circuit board and a nine volt battery.
He saw Aleksandr’s eyes squint before he spoke. “What is that?”
Oleg connected the battery to the circuit and flipped a small switch. “Laser mic counter measure. You can never be too safe.” He turned around and set it on the bar before continuing.
“As I was saying, the power plant plays a very important role in what I’m about to tell you. That’s why I scheduled your meeting with him. Now, how is it progressing?”
“It’s coming along. It is the first nuclear plant in Belarus, so I can understand his attention to detail. It is a high profile project, but he just kept on talking.” Aleksandr pointed at Oleg. “I think he is wanting something from you in return for this. Just watch. He will ask soon.”
“If he gets it online in time, I’ll give him anything he wants. Is it still on track to power up July the third?”
“Excellent.” A wry grin crossed Oleg’s face. “Just one more thing that is falling into place.”
Aleksandr’s eye’s narrowed. “What do you mean?”
Oleg turned around and grabbed a bottle, Minsk Krystal, chilling in a bucket of ice. He poured two glasses and handed one to his friend. He motioned to the chairs in front of the fireplace. They both walked slowly toward them. Aleksandr sat down and placed his drink on the table adjacent to his chair. He took out a cigarette, lit it and took a long drag. The smoke’s tendrils lofted toward the ceiling, growing like fingers from some demonic hand before they faded into the background. Aleksandr reached for his drink and took a sip to help calm his nerves.
“So what is this grand plan of yours? I hope you know that we’re treading on very dangerous ground.”
Oleg chose to stay standing and leaned against the mantle. “There is no great reward without great risk, Aleksandr.”
Aleksandr scoffed. “Save your page-a-day calendar expressions for everyone else. I need to know what you have in mind and see if it is even feasible.”
Oleg felt his cheeks warm. He wanted to slap Aleksandr in the face. Your temerity won’t be tolerated once you find out what I’m planning. Or, are you really behind me? Perhaps you report to Solonovich? Could you have been turned? I’ll put that to the test, soon.
“Are you sure you are up to this? Perhaps I read you wrong.” Oleg asked.
Aleksandr put out his cigarette in the ashtray and stood. “Yes, yes. I am sorry. This is all very stressful. You should know. Plus that long meeting with Litwin and being late…”
“Enough.” Oleg said with his hands in the air. Okay, maybe it is the stress. I am a bit paranoid too. ”Please, sit back down.”
As his friend sat, Oleg continued. “Elections were just held at the end of last year and a new term just recently began.”
Aleksandr shifted in his chair and took a sip of his vodka. “So far you’re not telling me anything that most anyone in Belarus doesn’t already know.”
“Then you know this too. If something were to happen to Solonovich, I would fill his position, and you, mine, for the remainder of the term. We would hold those positions for at least another four and a half years. That would give us plenty of time to make our own new appointments of power.”
Aleksandr wasn’t always a chain smoker. Oleg knew his friend did this just when he was nervous or anxious. Oleg felt a bit of relief to know his friend’s anxiety was real. Aleksandr lit another cigarette, took a short drag and exhaled. “And just how do you suggest we make this happen? Is your plan nothing more than an assassination of the president?”
Oleg smiled. There are more good things coming, my friend. He walked over behind the leather chair that faced Aleksandr. He gripped the sides tightly until his knuckles turned white. He leaned in. “This is bigger than the two of us, Comrade.” Oleg released his viselike grip and caressed the soft leather as he gloated on the information he was about to share. “You and I are not alone,” he said as he waived his finger back and forth. “There are a group of us that feel that this is long overdue, so the manpower and the infrastructure are already there. I’ve already planned the date.”
“Independence Day. He speaks at Victory Square every year.”
“Bozhe moi,” breathed Aleksandr. “That’s only a couple of months from now. Do you think we could get something planned in that short amount of time?”
“Yes. I am not worried about the time. That is not a problem. The problem lies in placing the blame. We need to displace any questions aimed at us. Who do we get to do it and how do we place the blame on them so that it is irrefutable?”
Aleksandr stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. He took a sip of vodka and kept the glass in his hand. “I do not know, but since you have a group of people, as you claim, already gathered, I assume you already have an answer to that question.”
Oleg smiled wide. I do. “A terrorist attack.”
Aleksandr’s eyes widened and he raised his voice. “A terrorist attack?” He then slammed back the remaining vodka and stood up. “I’m getting another. Do you want one?”
Oleg grinned again, shot back the glass and handed it to his friend.
Aleksandr stood at the bar and pulled out the chilled bottle of Minsk Krystal. “This is almost empty. Do you have another?”
“Only one. Another fucking result of the president’s incompetence,” Oleg grumbled, remembering.
“You mean because of the government taking over private companies? I didn’t realize the distillery was one of them.”
“Yes.” Bastard. “After they took over, his assigned minions massively mismanaged it, like they did with so many other companies. After a while, they could no longer pay the workers, so it was shut down and abandoned.
Aleksandr picked up both glasses and walked over to the window behind the large desk where Oleg had moved and handed him one.
Oleg took it and raised the glass to himself. “Za zdarou’e! Once this is gone, I’ll have to start drinking that Russian piss.”
“So, what do you have in mind for carrying out this plan?” Aleksandr asked.
Oleg walked over to a map of the world that hung on the back wall of his home office and pointed to the United States. “I have a contact within the U.S. government who has access to some interesting new technology. He has been a trusted friend for many years and with the right enticement, he has agreed to help us.”
“What kind of enticement?”
“We would give him the licensing rights for several western businesses like McDonalds and Starbucks. He would lease those rights to those corporations for years. It would make him millions and, of course, we would get our fair share of the profits.”
Oleg eyed his comrade as the idea of so much money seeped its way through Aleksandr’s thoughts. He was pleased with the grin that appeared on his friends face.
“And what kind of interesting technology are you talking about?”
Oleg’s lips curled upward as he motioned for Aleksandr to sit down again. As his friend sat, Oleg moved to the front of his desk, leaned back against it and crossed his arms. “Have you ever heard of Metal Storm?”
“No, what is it?”
“It is technology out of Australia and the United States. Without going into detail, it is basically a weapons system that is capable of firing munitions ranging from nine millimeter bullets to forty millimeter grenades at a rate of up to one million rounds per minute—and it can be done remotely.”
Aleksandr smirked, “You are joking.”
“No. It is very real, and we are getting it.”
Oleg let the information sink in for just a moment. He savored the look on Aleksandr’s face as he thought through the information.
“My contact in the States has sold the weapon to an arms dealer in Cuba, who should have already received it. I, on the other hand, have already been in touch with the person who will be both our dealer and our scapegoat.”
“And who is that?” Aleksandr asked.
“The person that will be getting us the weapon is Zahmir al Hamwi.”
Aleksandr fished out another cigarette and lit it. After a long draw, he exhaled a plume of smoke and asked, “Is that name supposed to mean something to me?”
Oleg couldn’t believe he didn’t recognize the name. “Do you remember when we supplied weapons to the Kurds in northern Iraq a few years ago?”
“And do you remember how al Qaeda vowed revenge against us for helping the Kurds?”
“This man will play a vital role in our plan.”
“He is a weapons dealer for al Qaeda and is on the top ten most wanted terrorists list in the U.S. and Interpol.” Oleg watched Aleksandr’s reaction and after a brief moment asked, “Are you now seeing how things are coming together, comrade?”
Aleksandr glanced up, his eyes were wide. He took another drag on his cigarette, then smiled and nodded his approval. “When will we be getting this weapon? What are we going to do with it until we are ready to use it?”
“Al Hamwi isn’t going to pick up the weapon until early August. He will have plenty of time to deliver it and we will only need to store it for a day or two. These are things that we can work out as the time gets closer.”
“But we are always next to the president when he speaks. If this is a weapon of mass destruction and you want to make it look like a terrorist attack, won’t we be in the line of fire?”
Oleg smiled again. “Good question. That’s why I asked about the timeline of the nuclear plant. Such a prestigious project needs proper representation. We will be attending that opening ceremony. Far away from Minsk.”
Oleg raised his glass. “To the future?”
“To the future,” Aleksandr replied.
Both men emptied their glasses in one swig.