Putin bets on Lukashenko keeping power in Belarus for now: sources

An EU diplomat said Russia had many levers to influence the situation in Belarus and was probably not too concerned yet by events there...

Istanbul, Jale Akbar, İnteraz - 21 August 2020, 17:03

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko will probably cling to power for now despite protests against him and is content to let him sweat it out, two sources close to the Kremlin said.

 

Lukashenko, a long-standing but truculent Moscow ally, has been buffeted by nearly two weeks of street protests which have loosened his grip on power in a country many Russians regard as another Russian region in all but name.

 

That, the two sources said, suits the Kremlin. It is keen to deal with a weakened Lukashenko who has resisted and sometimes publicly railed against Moscow’s offers of deeper political and economic integration.

 

“They’ll be happy to wait a while and watch him struggle a bit. They don’t like him much, but they still back him,” said one of the sources, who regularly speaks to senior government and Kremlin officials.

 

The second source said a diminished Lukashenko would suit the Kremlin’s needs.

 

“Lukashenko will be critically weakened. You’ll be able to make mince meat out of him. Our guys will definitely use this.”

 

The Kremlin did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Putin has offered Lukashenko assistance if needed but the Kremlin said on Wednesday it saw no need to help Belarus militarily or otherwise for now.

 

An EU diplomat said Russia had many levers to influence the situation in Belarus and was probably not too concerned yet by events there.

 

“They have to be smart, but I think they still feel in control of the situation,” the diplomat said.

 

The Kremlin has told EU nations to keep out of Belarus.

 

Joined by a treaty that proclaims, on paper, a “union state” with a Soviet-style red flag, the two countries usually have no border controls, and are culturally, linguistically and economically intertwined. Putin has pushed hard to make the union state more of a political and economic reality.

 

Reuters