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Belarus Leader Lashes Out at the West, a Year After Crushing Protests

Belarus Leader Lashes Out at the West, a Year After Crushing Protests
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Belarus Leader Lashes Out at the West, a Year After Crushing Protests

Belarus Leader Lashes Out at the West, a Year After Crushing Protests

The US Treasury Department on Monday added 27 people and 17 entities to the list of those under sanctions, which drains the country’s export revenue. Last month, President Biden met Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the unlikely Belarusian opposition leader, who was forced to flee the country shortly after claiming victory in the presidential election.

Over the years, Lukashenko has played a balancing act with his foreign policy, playing the West against Russia in an effort to preserve its independence while drawing economic support from both. But Mr Putin’s support during the protests – including a veiled threat to intervene militarily if necessary – was a vital lifeline for Mr Lukashenko. Western sanctions have pushed Mr Lukashenko even closer to Mr Putin.

But during the press conference, billed as “the big conversation with the president,” Lukashenko described Russia and Mr. Putin as more dependent on Belarus than the other way around. He claimed that Belarus, which borders Poland and the Baltic states, both members of NATO, is Russia’s last bulwark against the West.

Following this line of argument, he insisted that the protests against him last year were prompted by Western countries seeking to attack “the heart of Russia” by stirring up unrest in Belarus.

“With the Russian president, we immediately understood what they expected from us,” he said.

Today, despite his protests, Mr Lukashenko’s reign depends on his personal relationship with Mr Putin, said Katia Glod, analyst at the Center for European Policy Analysis. At any time, Mr. Putin can “take another decision” regarding the Belarusian leader, she said, such as “pushing him to a referendum” on a new constitution and resignation.

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While allowing during the press conference that Belarus is in talks with Russia on another $ 1 billion loan, Lukashenko insisted that his country would remain independent and never merge with Russia.

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