After a foreign airliner was transferred and arrested the important journalist Roman Protasevich, all eyes turned to Belarus. Prime Minister Rutte today declared the government of Alexander Lukashenko “one of the most evil regimes in the world.”
But what does Lukashenko actually want to achieve? What is the role of Moscow? Six questions and answers about the current situation in Belarus.
What has happened since the protests after the election last year?
You may remember the large-scale demonstrations against the results of the presidential election in the capital Minsk last year. According to official data, President Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80% of the votes. A few weeks later, the protests were brutally suppressed. Many demonstrators ended up in prison, some demonstrators left the country, and the European Union imposed more sanctions. Belarus has become more isolated than before and is forced to strengthen its ties with Russia.
NOS foreign editor, Belarusian expert Franka Hummels said: “These are the main points.” He has been working in the country for more than 20 years. “The political atmosphere is very difficult. You deserve the slightest condemnation. It is worth noting that many Belarusians have found each other through protests and are still organizing various activities. In the vicinity, there are still demonstrations, such as someone passing away. After Roman Protasevich was arrested, people still took to the streets, even if they knew it was dangerous, it was worth it; they wanted Belarus to develop from a police country to a democratic country, but now more and more military Dictatorship.”
What does Lukashenko want to achieve through arrest?
Hummels said there are at least two things. The first is intimidation. He wants to demonstrate to opponents and dissidents: you are not safe anywhere. In addition, Lukashenko has worked very hard to create an information vacuum in Belarus, only on foreign information channels such as Nexta. , He has no effect. This is of course what he cared about when he arrested Protasevich. “
The third reason is speculative: Lukashenko may want to show his teeth. “The purpose is to see how far he can go and how far he can challenge the West.”
Is this action unexpected?
According to correspondent Iris de Graaf (Iris de Graaf), no one really thought of this, but it’s not entirely surprising. “Lukashenko has been suppressing opposition and important journalists for months. This situation has increased last week. An important news channel in Belarus was shut down, an independent TV studio was shut down, and journalists were also affected. search for.”
“Lukashenko seems to be very concerned about the fact that everyone still knows what is happening in Belarus, and the opposition is still so active on the news channel to launch new demonstrations. What is shocking is that we have learned from A similar harsh approach has been seen in the criticism. In the Russian media in recent weeks.”
What is the influence of Russia?
Putin has been pursuing closer integration between Belarus and Russia for the past two decades, and seems to be stepping up efforts in recent years. Lukashenko has long opposed measures that might jeopardize Belarus’ sovereignty, but the suppression of demonstrations last fall and the anger of the West over demonstrations brought Belarus closer to Russia. Since last year, the two countries have also reached a new agreement on far-reaching cooperation.
“Since last year’s demonstration, Lukashenko has been taken away from Moscow in a complete bondage. Obviously, without Russian support, Lukashenko can’t do much. Without approval or at least not knowing the situation in Russia. Next, the transfer of this aircraft is difficult to do. The Kremlin”, reporter Iris DeGraf said.
In addition, the Belarusian economy depends to a large extent on Russia. By continuing to support Lukashenko economically and politically, the Kremlin is actually approving what is happening in the country. “Obviously Lukashenko has enough confidence in this, in large part because he feels Moscow’s support.”
According to DeGraf, it is unclear what happened behind the scenes and Moscow’s reach. But it is clear that Moscow supports Belarus. Russia called the EU’s anger and condemnation “shocking” and said that in the West, the news of the arrest was abused because of its own politics and anti-Russian agenda.
What does Moscow want from Belarus?
In this context, President Putin’s goal of regaining Russia’s status as an international superpower played a role. Graf said: “This includes his efforts in various ways to increase Russia’s influence in the countries of the former Soviet Union. As far as Belarus is concerned, he hardly needs to make any effort.”
In addition, Putin likes to see himself as the “protector” of leaders facing the “color revolution.” Putin believes that this kind of revolution is a popular uprising against the authoritarian and authoritarian regimes in the West.
However, some observers believe that the Kremlin may not be fully satisfied with what is happening in Belarus, because this is hindering Moscow’s diplomatic efforts in a delicate period.Russia and the U.S. are becoming one of Possible top Between Putin and US President Biden in June.
This Friday, Putin and Lukashenko will hold a meeting to possibly discuss closer cooperation. “These conversations are almost always held behind closed doors, so we don’t know what is being discussed.”
What are the consequences of the arrest on relations with the EU?
Next New sanctions In the European Union, air traffic is also restricted. This makes it more difficult to leave Belarus and the country becomes more isolated.
Franka Hummels (Franka Hummels) said: “And it is being pushed further into the arms of Russia.” “This is an unexpected side effect of sanctions. The EU’s intention is to have a dialogue with the regime, but in After this happened, the relationship became so sore that it would not happen for the time being. Even if the regime relaxed the EU’s requirements for the release of Protasevich, another 400 political prisoners were imprisoned.”