Tichanovskaya: Lukashenko does not make any decisions himself
The fact that a large Russian military presence is now permanently cemented is ringing alarm bells for many. “Lukashenko and Putin are dragging our country into war, they lie that there is an alleged threat from Ukraine,” complained Svetlana Tichanovskaya, an opposition leader living in exile in neighboring Lithuania. Many see him as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, after which Lukashenko, considered “Europe’s last dictator”, has been in power with violence and Putin’s support.
“Lukashenko is an insult to my country,” said Tichanovskaya, who sees the concession to keep Russian troops in the country as further evidence of Putin’s loyalty. Lukashenko no longer makes any decisions himself, the Kremlin controls Belarusian politics, emphasizing Tichanovskaya. The country, sanctioned by the West during its post-election crackdown on protests, is also economically dependent on Russia.
The military leadership of Belarus has repeatedly stated that the joint unit formed with Russian troops is used exclusively for defense. However, since Lukashenko himself recently announced that he has introduced a “regime of anti-terrorist operations” in the country, observers suspect that there is much more at stake here than joint training and defense exercises.
There is a broad consensus against participation in the war
Representatives of the power apparatus in Minsk claim almost daily that Belarus could be attacked – for example by NATO member Poland. The head of the KGB secret service, Ivan Turtel, also said in Putin’s style that neighboring countries could launch a terrorist attack on Belarus, prepare a military attack or even prepare for a nuclear attack. There is no proof of this.
“It cannot be ruled out that Lukashenko actually fears a military attack against Belarus or an attack by saboteurs,” said political scientist Artyom Shreibman, who lives in exile, in his blog on the Telegram news channel. “Hundreds of Belarusian volunteers are fighting for Ukraine, at the same time Belarusian opposition is militarizing in Lithuania and Poland.”
At the same time, Schreibman emphasized that there is a broad consensus in Belarus that Belarusian troops should not participate in the war in Ukraine. There is no social base in society that Lukashenko can rely on. Schreibman sees “the risk of destabilizing the Belarusian regime” if Lukashenko gives in to any pressure from Putin to fight with his own troops in Ukraine.