Russia: Putin’s visit to Belarus sparks new fears in Kyiv – Politics
Vladimir Putin no longer travels abroad often. Haven’t for years. First it had to do with the pandemic, then with the war he had been waging against the Ukraine leads. He has drastically reduced the number of hosts who want to invite and receive the Kremlin boss. at Belarus is that different Russian and Belarusian rulers Alexander Lukashenko have met many times recently, but it was always Lukashenko who traveled: to Moscow, Sochi, Saint Petersburg. However, on Monday flew Putin For the first time since 2019, he returned to the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where he was greeted with a red carpet and, for the sake of tradition, salt and bread. This is not only a special feature for Putin, but especially for Lukashenko.
The Belarusian autocrat is visibly fighting against the impression that he is only a political accomplice of Putin. He said it himself at the weekend: “After the extensive negotiations, everyone will say that there is no longer any state power in Belarus, that Russians are walking around here and running the country. But I would like to emphasize this peculiarity: Nobody but us is running Belarus.”
At the meeting on Monday in Minsk’s Palace of Independence, Lukashenko and Putin wanted to talk about economic cooperation, about the common union state, which theoretically envisages close links between the state and the economy. Russia has wanted to tie Belarus even closer to itself for years and has the great advantage that Minsk is more dependent on Moscow than ever.
Minsk is Moscow’s war partner, but sends no soldiers
Since the start of the violent crackdown on mass protests in Belarus in August 2020 and the sanctions imposed by the West, ties with the European Union have been all but severed. Without Russia’s economic and political support, Lukashenko might not have been able to stay in power. This is especially true since Russia launched attacks against Ukraine from Belarusian territory.
Belarus has been a war partner with Russia since February, which attacked Kyiv again this Monday with a swarm of drones. But Lukashenko attaches great importance to the fact that there are no active soldiers in the fighting Ukraine and do not take an active part in the war, which is also officially referred to as a “special military operation” in Belarus. Just how much longer? Even if the term Ukraine war was not officially mentioned before the start of the Minsk talks, military cooperation was of course at stake; In addition to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu also accompanied Putin to Belarus. Both countries are holding joint maneuvers there these days. Moscow has transferred up to 9,000 Russian soldiers to the neighboring country in recent months.
The Ukrainian government has long suspected that Putin is pushing Lukashenko to involve Belarus in the Russian war of aggression. Although Belarus is a small country compared to Russia and doesn’t have nearly as many soldiers by far, on the other hand the problems of the Russian army in Ukraine are so great and the number of soldiers killed is obviously so high that Moscow called for the first mobilization in September and even recruited prisoners for the front under promises of amnesty.
Prepared for all scenarios
In addition, the secretary of the Ukrainian Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, believes that Russia could soon run out of missiles. “If you count the large-scale attacks, then they have a maximum of two to three, maybe they can scrape together four.” But then Russia would have no more reserves, he said Ukraine Pravda.
Whether with or without direct Belarusian involvement, the Kiev military leadership believes that Putin may begin a large-scale winter offensive against Ukraine as early as January and that a new front is also threatening in Belarus, i.e. from the north. Pawel Latuschko from the opposition Belarusian Coordination Council agrees. “In fact, we see the danger of violence against Ukraine,” he said, referring to Putin’s visit to Minsk, the Russian soldiers stationed there, military technology and maneuvers.
Ukrainian President Zelensky said that Ukraine is preparing for all scenarios. Protecting the borders has priority. A spokesman for Ukraine’s border guards, Andriy Demchenko, said that Kyiv has increased video surveillance at the border, including using drones. On the other hand, the border between Belarus and Ukraine is about a thousand kilometers long, so additional protection at the northern border should not be possible without personnel.
According to the Belarusian political expert Artjom Schraibman, this could be the reason for a kind of bluff. The newspaper The standard he said, he sees a diversionary maneuver behind the troop movements, which should force the Ukrainian troops to hold positions along the long Belarus border in the north, instead of fighting Russian troops in the Donbass. Schraibman told the broadcaster Golos Ameriki that the number of soldiers there was too small for a large-scale offensive by Belarus.
Lukashenko, the dictator who has ruled Minsk since 1994, is not only feeling the pressure from Moscow, but also from his own country. Russia’s war against Ukraine, which is also a neighboring country to Belarus, is largely rejected by the Belarusian population. Actively joining Putin’s side could reignite the protest movement he has brutally suppressed. “No one in Belarus wants to fight”, says he Analyst Schraibman, “except for Lukashenko.”