Suspicion swirls over Russia’s plans for Belarus after minister’s death

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RIGA, Latvia — Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who is fighting Russia in NATO, Ukraine and even Ukraine, met with his security minister on Thursday, days after the sudden death of the country’s long-time foreign minister, the exiled. warned of attacks from outside enemies, such as Belarusians.

Lukashenko said fighters in exile could try to seize power by force.

The Belarusian dictator, who has been in power since 1994, is known for making disturbing and outrageous baseless claims. His latest warning comes amid a swirl of conspiracy and conspiracy rumors following the unexpected death last weekend of Lukashenko’s close ally and close friend, Foreign Minister Vladimir McKay.

Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Vlenin warned Thursday that the anti-Lukashenko Belarusian regiment fighting for Kyiv has serious combat experience and could be used to seize power in Minsk.

According to Belarusian state media, Lukashenko said, “Ukraine is most likely trying to draw the armed forces of NATO member states into the conflict, on whatever pretext.” He also warned about an increase in

Ukraine has consistently denied accusations of Lukashenko’s planned attack and is building defensive trenches and fences along its border.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir McKay dies ‘suddenly’

“There are increasing calls from the fugitive opposition, our bandits, to seize power by force and commit acts of terrorism on Belarusian territory,” Lukashenko said, calling them “extremists, not just traitors.” called. They do not hesitate to call for attacks on targets within our territory. “

In fact, Lukashenko may have a cause for paranoia these days, but not necessarily for the reasons he gave.

Lukashenko has relied on Moscow for promises of security assistance after being nearly ousted by protests in 2020, allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his country as a stage for his invasion of Ukraine. Belarus serves as a base for Russia to launch attacks, provide medical care to wounded soldiers and, more recently, to train thousands of newly recruited Russian troops.

But Lukashenko irritated Moscow by refusing to send his troops to Ukraine to reinforce Putin’s depleted Ukrainian army. Such a move would be very unpopular in Belarus and could provoke new protests.

As the war drags on, Lukashenko’s options are dwindling. He has come under pressure from Russia to step up military engagement, while facing sanctions from Western countries for his role in enabling the invasion of Ukraine and the brutal crackdown on opposition activists since his fraudulent re-election in 2020. Nearly 1,500 members of the opposition are currently in prison.

Meanwhile, McKay’s death means that Lukashenko’s ears have one less pragmatic, rational voice advocating for maximum independence from Moscow without risking a Ukrainian-style invasion. .

Lukashenko placed a red rose on McKay’s coffin before Tuesday’s burial, briefly touched the dead man’s arm, and stared at him with dry eyes for a moment before offering his condolences to McKay’s family.

McCay, a wily regime supporter, appeared to be in good health until he died at his home on Saturday, aged 64. His death sparked a flurry of speculation that he might have been secretly killed by Russia, with a myriad of competing theories as to his motives.

But a banal explanation may be more likely. Her Nasha Niva in liberal media reported that MacKay died of a heart attack after being unable to seek medical help.

Misunderstood as a pro-Western figure, McKay is a former Soviet leader who sought to maximize authoritarian power in Belarus and maintain regime stability, according to Carnegie Endowment for International Peace analyst Artyom Shleibman. He was a military intelligence colonel.

“What everyone should understand about McKay is that for him, loyalty to Lukashenko is paramount, and regime stability is paramount,” Schreibmann said.

Setback in Ukraine war weakens Russian influence over regional allies

McKay was also one of the few Belarusian officials who could communicate with Western officials, and was able to explain Minsk’s view that Belarus must always explain the threat from Moscow.

“He was in the very unique position of being very close to Lukashenko and having been trusted by Lukashenko since the turn of the century, but he also had connections and the ability to speak to the West,” Schreibmann said. “He perfectly amplified the signal from Lukashenko to the West and from the West to Lukashenko.”

Speaking to journalists last week at a meeting of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, Lukashenko warned Ukraine to face “total destruction” if it did not stop fighting.

He has repeatedly accused Ukraine and the West of plotting to attack Belarus, but there is no evidence. By highlighting the supposed threat to Belarus, he creates a good reason not to send troops to Ukraine.

last year, Lukashenko claimed without evidence that he was the target of a US-led assassination plot.

In resisting Moscow’s demands, Lukashenko presumably recognized that a small, untested army of 45,000 would likely suffer heavy losses if sent to fight Ukrainian battle-hardened forces. is doing.

Lukashenko’s head of state, Makey, has long been a staunch voice within the administration in favor of resisting Russia’s military and political rule, Schleibman said.

“He was always in favor of dictatorships acting smarter and involving some of their critics,” he said. “Perhaps his only ideological inclination is that he is not pro-Russian. In private conversations he spoke harshly about the Russian state and Russian political culture.

Despite President Lukashenko’s reluctance to send troops into battle, Belarus is drawn deeper into Moscow’s military embrace as the war progresses and will be difficult to untangle in the future. wax.

In October, Lukashenko announced that a joint Russian-Belarusian force of 9,000 would be based in Belarus, but did not explain its role.

Following the death of Makey report According to a little-known think tank that Putin planned to assassinate Lukashenko in order to take over the Belarusian military, analysts downplay the claim.

In the Ukrainian capital, Putin’s attack does not dampen determination to fight Russia

“It is very difficult to understand who can expect the Belarusian army to have any influence on the outcome of the war with Ukraine. I have written Ruth Diamond, a post-Soviet security expert at King’s College London, commented on Twitter, adding that such a move could cause significant domestic unrest.

Belarusian military tensions over civil war cast a shadow over President Lukashenko severe political repression Since 2020, like similar Kremlin operations, it has been designed to crush the opposition.

The Lukashenko regime has relentlessly pursued those who participated in the 2020 peaceful protests, dragging them out of their homes, beating them, recording forced confessions, and imprisoning them.

Jailed opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova, who co-led the 2020 presidential campaign against Lukashenko, was admitted to an intensive care unit requiring emergency surgery after being jailed on Tuesday.

Kolesnikova’s attorney had previously been denied access to her, and her family had been denied information about what required the operation.

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