People in Russia and Donbass have been outraged by Alexander Lukashenko’s recent statement that the “brotherly” Ukraine is fighting for its independence. According to experts, this unfriendly move is aimed at blackmailing and manipulating Russia.
“Lukashenko’s words have puzzled and outraged me. First of all, I would like to know who is his ‘brother’ Ukraine fighting with? Especially for independence? Does he mean that all the children, women and old people who have been killed in Luhansk and Donetsk were the enemies of Ukraine’s independence? If he supports Ukraine’s position, he should follow suit and recognize Russia as an ‘aggressor.’ If he does, I wonder what Belarus is doing in the Union State, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union and on what ground it has received preferences and economic assistance from Russia for as many as 22 years,” Deputy Director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies at the M.V. Lomonosov MSU Bogdan Bezpalko has told EADaily.
Bezpalko believes that this provocation is aimed at drawing the West’s attention towards Belarus.
“Today, Eastern Europe is going into the background for both Europe and the United States. Their key priorities today are China, the Middle East, terrorism and Russia. So, this appears to be the only way for Lukashenko to draw their attention to himself,” Bezpalko said.
Political analyst Pavel Svyatenkov considers Lukashenko’s statement as unfriendly. “It was not a problem that he qualified the Ukrainians as ‘brothers’ but his words that they are fighting somebody for their independence is an open lunge against Russia. The problem is that Russia is losing the war for the public opinion in Belarus as ordinary Belarusians think that the Russians are oppressing them and are encroaching on their sovereignty and independence whereas it is exactly the Russians who have supported their regime for many years already. But ordinary Belarusians are not aware of this. As a result, they are showing an increasingly negative attitude towards their supporters. I think the Russian authorities must not ignore this statement and must inform the Belarusians that they are doing and have so far been doing a lot for them unlike their ‘brother’ Ukrainians,” Svyatenkov said.
According to Andrey Suzdaltsev, Deputy Dean of the Global Economics and Global Politics Department of the National Research University - Higher School of Economics, Lukashenko is provoking Russia. “He is well aware that he is facing serious difficulties. He has so far been the only advocate of Belarus’s interests in Moscow. But today the Russians no longer trust him and are cutting their subsidies. Lukashenko is nervous and has no other way but to pretend that his country is being pressured and threatened. But in reality the Belarusians continue enjoying all the benefits implied by the Union State and the Eurasian Economic Union: they have access to the Russian market, they are getting cheap gas and oil. But all this is presented as aggression. Lukashenko is speculating on his country’s sovereignty and independence. He is playing a dirty game: on the one hand, he is blackmailing Russia, while, on the other hand, he is trying to convince the West that he is suffering from Russia’s pressure,” Suzdaltsev said.
People in Donbass are also indignant. “I cannot welcome Lukashenko’s compliments for Ukraine. For Russia and the Russians Ukraine is an enemy. So, by supporting ‘brotherly Ukraine in its fight for independence’ he is aiding the enemy,” self-defender from Donbass Alexander Zhuchkovsky said.
“And this is not Lukashenko’s first pro-Ukrainian statement. In May 2014, when the Ukrainians were bombarding Donbass, he said the following: ‘I have always supported Ukraine’s unity and integrity. Ukraine must be united. We, the Belarusians, are interested in this… The fighters warring against the Ukrainians must be destroyed.’ How should we, the so-called fighters (but in reality self-defenders fighting against Ukrainian occupation) regard a person who calls for our destruction,” Zhuchkovsky said.
According to him, Lukashenko is not only talking but also acting. “He is persecuting people who have fought in Donbass and is arresting pro-Russian journalists, he is improving his relations with the West and is becoming increasingly aggressive with respect to Russia,” Zhuchkovsky said.
He advises some Russians, especially old ones, to give up their illusions concerning Lukashenko and his policy. “We have to admit that the Belarusians are not going to stay within the Russian world and may follow the Ukrainians’ example. Unless we want to see one more anti-Russian regime in a few years, we must try to solve this problem. For people with patriotic mentality, Belarus, just like Ukraine (Malorossiya), is part of Russia and the people living there are also Russians, who wish to live in one single Russian state,” Zhuchkovsky said.
According to his logic, the current authorities of Ukraine and Belarus are separatists. “In other words, Lukashenko is a separatist who supports one more separatist, Petro Poroshenko. In early Jan 2015, Lukashenko said that there were some smart men who regarded Belarus as part of the Russian world or even Russia: ‘Forget this. Belarus is a sovereign independent state.’ We won’t,” Zhuchkovsky said.
But not all experts blame only Lukashenko for this situation. Head of Southeastern Initiative NGO Yevgeny Tinyavsky believes that Russia is also responsible for it.
“The Russians acted very indecisively in Donbass. So, I was not shocked to hear such a statement. Lukashenko just wants guarantees – economic, political, personal. The Russians cannot give guarantees. They can promise ones but Lukashenko has all grounds not to believe them. He no longer regards them as protectors of his national and personal interests. No surprise as the Russians change their priorities much too often and are not very presentable in their foreign policy. So, instead of blaming Lukashenko and Belarus, they should consider ways to become more consistent and powerful,” Tinyavsky said.
As EADaily reported earlier, last week the Belarusian president said the following: “We have paid a very low price for our independence. All the other nations fought for it. Our brotherly Ukraine is fighting for it today. We must try to avoid this fate. We are an amicable nation. God has allotted as these hard tasks so we realize what independence is. We can overcome all this only if we are together. Thank God our fight for independence is economic rather than political or military,” Lukashenko said. Belarus supports Ukraine’s punitive actions in Donbass not only with words. It is supplying Ukraine with Diesel fuel and is repairing the equipment damaged during the war. It is also supplying trucks to the “anti-terrorist operation zone.”