Dhe two don’t like each other. Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko met on Monday in the Russian Black Sea metropolis of Sochi. Lukashenko needs money. According to reports in the newspaper “Kommersant”, the self-proclaimed Belarusian president wants to inject three billion dollars into the Kremlin.
“Why should we ask for something?” Lukashenko commented maliciously on the report. He lectured anyone who tried to forge a Russian loan of three billion dollars from him, did not understand the real agenda of Russian-Belarusian relations. Lukashenko’s vehement assertions that the visit is not about the money suggest that this is exactly what it should be.
The luck has turned
Since Lukashenko’s election fraud triggered a surprising political crisis in his country last August, he has received increasing support from Russia. Lukashenko took home a $ 1.5 billion loan from his meeting with Putin last September.
At that time, Lukashenko was still acting from a position of weakness: because of the ongoing demonstrations and protests from the West, it was unclear how long he could stay in power.
The tide has now turned. The regime in Minsk has the situation under control again and is stifling any resistance with brutal violence. That’s why the autocrat is now taking a relaxed approach to Moscow. Lukashenko has promised reforms, but does not seem to be in any hurry.
At the “All-Belarus People’s Assembly” ten days ago, a kind of congress of 2,500 officials loyal to the state based on the Chinese model, where Lukashenko was supposed to announce details of the reforms desired by the Kremlin, the autocrat remained vague. The gathering is more like group therapy for the regime, wrote Artyom Schraibman, Belarus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.
Instead of making clear announcements to Moscow, Lukashenko disappointed the Kremlin. The referendum on the constitutional amendment, which optimists in Moscow expected this year, is not due to take place until the beginning of 2022. Lukashenko leaves open when there will be new elections.
Instead, he claims that the current demonstrations in Russia are a continuation of the Belarusian protests. This is a clear signal to Moscow that it is not even considering withdrawing from politics. Lukashenko is currently firmly in the saddle. As long as it stays that way, Putin will support him too.
And what is the European Union doing? Lukashenko apparently expects – similar to the protests in summer 2011 – that there will be a rapprochement in a year or two and that people will then quickly return to everyday business.
Lukashenko is currently feeling so strong that he is having Western diplomats harassed in Minsk: For example, representatives of state television regularly film Western diplomats visiting court hearings, asking endless questions and following those affected to the car door. That is a “classic tactic of intimidation”, it is said in Brussels.
It is possible that the Europeans will adopt sanctions against even more people in Lukashenko’s power apparatus in the coming months. The previous punitive measures such as travel restrictions and account freezes – which also affects Lukashenko himself – have so far had no effect.
Pawel Latushka, who sits on the presidium of the so-called Coordination Council of the opposition and has fled to Poland, told WELT: “There are two variants: either the EU allows Lukashenko to rule for five more years and torment his own people, or there are clever ones , targeted economic sanctions that hit the regime in the heart. ”
Latushka, who was previously his country’s minister and ambassador in Warsaw and Paris, predicts that “two to three million Belarusians” would leave their country after the corona pandemic if things continued as before. “Germany would also feel that,” said Latushka.
Meanwhile, it was said in Brussels that Germany and Latvia had ensured that two important oligarchs were removed from the EU sanctions list at the last minute. These were Aliaksei I. Aleksin and Michail S. Guzerijew; Both are close to Lukashenko and are largely responsible for raising money to finance his regime. Guzerijew is said to have connections to an important German company. Latushka did not want to comment on this.
Instead, he said: “I am grateful to Germany for the solidarity and support given to opposition members and people in need within the framework of the Belarus Civil Society Action Plan.” He is also happy about the numerous statements made by the EU on the situation in Belarus.
“But many people from my homeland ask me: Where is the EU’s reaction?” It is now important for the government to finally start negotiations with the opposition, said Latushka: “It never does that voluntarily, only under pressure.”