While Ukraine is resisting Putin, Belarus is becoming his puppet | Russia-Ukraine crisis


On February 27, because the struggle was raging in neighbouring Ukraine, Belarus held a referendum on constitutional modifications. Belarusians had been presupposed to vote on new provisions, which might strengthen President Alexander Lukashenko’s grip on the nation.

Later that day, the central elections fee introduced that almost all of individuals voted in favour of the amendments, successfully validating them. However whereas Lukashenko pushes to consolidate energy in Belarus, the occasions in Ukraine are displaying he’s solely rising weaker.

Battling a weakened economic system and having no alternative however to help the Russian invasion of his neighbour, the Belarusian president is nicely on his method of changing into a de facto puppet of the Kremlin, with devastating penalties for Belarus.

Growing dependence on Russia

For the reason that fraught elections in August 2020 and the post-election violence unleashed on well-liked protests within the following months, Lukashenko’s legitimacy has collapsed. His approval ranking has plummeted to about 25 p.c and he has needed to rely upon the Kremlin’s political and financial backing to outlive.

Over the 20 months, the Belarusian president has met with Putin frequently, to report back to him on the state of affairs in Belarus. In November, he signed an formidable programme of financial integration below the “union state” settlement, first launched within the Nineties, which might see the institution of a confederation between the 2 states.

One of many fundamental issues his regime faces is the faltering Belarusian economic system, which is presently burdened with unsustainable public overseas debt. Though it quantities to solely about 30 p.c of the Belarusian gross home product (GDP), it’s nearly solely denominated in US {dollars}. The Western sanctions imposed within the aftermath of the election violence have barred Belarus from elevating cash on worldwide markets. This yr Belarus has to repay in extra of $3.3bn in overseas debt, and it had hoped for a Russian mortgage to try this.

Earlier this month, the Russia-led Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Growth refused a $3.5bn mortgage to Belarus, though the Kremlin promised to think about refinancing $1bn in Belarusian debt to Moscow.

The unprecedented sanctions being imposed by the West on Russia amid the struggle in Ukraine might additional cripple the Russian capability to take action. Belarus’s gold and overseas foreign money reserves of $8.5bn might present a cushion for the quick time period, however not within the longer run.

In the meantime, the impact of the post-election Western sanctions towards Belarus has develop into extra profound in current months, as Lithuania and Ukraine banned the transit by their ports of Belarusian potash, a fertiliser ingredient and a key Belarusian export. Though Russia promised assist, its seaports lack the additional capability to deal with Belarusian fertilisers. If Belarus doesn’t discover different logistics to ship potash, it could lose greater than $1bn a yr in revenues.

Commerce is extraordinarily vital for the Belarusian export-oriented economic system. Ukraine is the second largest buying and selling companion for Belarus, with exports to its southern neighbour totalling $4.5bn final yr. Belarus will possible lose some if not all of those exports. The upcoming new sanctions in response to the army aggression towards Ukraine will solely make issues worse for the Lukashenko regime.

Belarus dragged into struggle

The Russian assault on Ukraine from Belarus has highlighted that Lukashenko is de facto now not commander-in-chief within the nation. He might not have even been conscious of Putin’s resolution to invade Ukraine till the night time earlier than.

Within the weeks previous the struggle, there have been some makes an attempt of the Belarusian authorities to manoeuvre away from the Russian place. Belarusian Overseas Minister Vladimir Makei pledged that each one Russian troops would depart Belarus after the Russia-Belarus army workout routines “Union Resolve” concluded.

Russian troops not solely remained in place, but in addition used Belarusian territory as a launching pad for the invasion of Ukraine. Russian army plane and helicopters attacking Ukrainian targets have continued flying to and from Belarusian airports and there have been a number of incidents of missiles fired from Belarus.

Though in the intervening time there have been no confirmed experiences of Belarusian armed forces preventing alongside Russian ones, Lukashenko just lately said that: “Our troops are usually not [in Ukraine] but when it turns into essential, if Belarus and Russia want them, they are going to be there.”

The Belarusian president has additionally threatened that Russian troops and weapons stationed in Belarus would stay in response to the possible reinforcement of NATO forces in Japanese Europe.

A puppet of the Kremlin

Lukashenko is now not attempting to cover that choices on Belarus’s defence at the moment are taken with out his involvement. The struggle in Ukraine has accelerated the morphing of his regime right into a puppet of the Kremlin.

As Putin doesn’t recognise the post-Soviet worldwide order, there are various causes to imagine that he thinks Belarus, like Ukraine, has no legit proper to exist. In the interim, it may be handy for the Kremlin to maintain Lukashenko on a decent leash inside the official borders of Belarus, whereas controlling its defence and home politics. But the end result of the struggle in Ukraine might have grave penalties for Belarus.

Putin is prone to push ahead for political integration below the union state between Belarus and Russia, which might successfully downgrade the Belarusian authorities and state establishments.

He may additionally resolve to annex Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk Folks’s Republic and Luhansk Folks’s Republic to the union state, together with Georgia’s separatist areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and later do the identical for Moldova’s Transnistria. If this occurs, Belarus’s standing would fall to the extent of those unrecognised statelets.

Changing into Putin’s marionette is hardly the political finale that Lukashenko had been hoping for throughout his practically three many years in energy. Solely a small minority of Belarusians would welcome such a union.

And already, there’s rising frustration inside the Belarusian public with the strain of the sanctions and compelled help for the invasion of Ukraine, which works towards the standard Belarusian mentality of neutrality.

Anger amongst peculiar Belarusians was fairly palpable in the course of the referendum, when chants of “No to struggle!” erupted amongst individuals gathered to vote. Though in the meanwhile, it’s unlikely that anybody inside the Belarusian regime will converse out towards Lukashenko, this will change, as Belarus begins to endure from further sanctions imposed because of its help for the invasion of Ukraine.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

US shuts Belarus embassy, approves evacuation from Moscow embassy | Russia-Ukraine crisis News


Secretary of State Antony Blinken introduced the suspension of operations and the authorised departures in an announcement.

The US shuttered its embassy within the capital of Belarus and allowed non-emergency workers and their members of the family to go away from its embassy in Moscow on the fifth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an announcement on Monday introduced the suspension of operations on the Minsk embassy and the authorised departure from Moscow.

“We took these steps resulting from safety and security points stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified assault by Russian navy forces in Ukraine,” he stated.

Flowers outside Ukrainian embassy in USThe US authorities urged residents to contemplate leaving Russia instantly on business flights amid the rising flight cancellations [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The most recent evacuations come after Russian President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on excessive alert on Sunday within the face of a barrage of reprisals by Western nations for his struggle on Ukraine.

Amid Russia’s deepening financial and political isolation after it invaded Ukraine final Thursday, ceasefire talks between Russian and Ukrainian officers started on the Belarusian border. Ukraine’s presidency stated the intention of the talks ought to embody a whole withdrawal of Russian forces.

A photograph posted on Twitter by US ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher confirmed mission employees reducing the American flag.

“Belarus’ complicity in Russia’s struggle towards Ukraine has proven the regime’s lack of sovereign decision-making,” Fisher stated in a tweet.

“The US of America has suspended operations of our embassy in Minsk. All American employees have departed Belarus,” she stated.

 

The US had relocated its Ukraine embassy operations from the capital Kyiv to the western metropolis of Lviv two weeks in the past as Russian forces massed at Ukraine’s borders.

Additionally on Monday, the US blocked Individuals from participating in any transactions involving Russia’s central financial institution, dealing one other blow to the nation’s financial system.

The sanctions are prone to jack up Russian inflation greater, cripple its buying energy and drive down investments, US officers stated.

In the meantime, Russia on Monday barred airways from 36 international locations from utilizing Russian airspace after European nations and Canada on Sunday moved to close their airspace to Russian plane.

The US is contemplating related motion, however has but to make a remaining resolution, in keeping with US officers. The US authorities over the weekend urged residents to contemplate leaving Russia instantly on business flights amid the rising flight cancellations.



IOC Says Athletes From Russia and Belarus Should not Compete


The Worldwide Olympic Committee on Monday deepened Russia’s isolation by recommending that the nation’s athletes and groups ought to be banned from world sports activities competitions.

Though the I.O.C. left exceptions for when modifications in occasions had been “not doable on quick discover for organizational or authorized causes,” the committee’s transfer represented an escalation in worldwide anger over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The banishment must also apply to athletes from Belarus, the I.O.C. mentioned in a press release, provided that nation’s participation in Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

“Whereas athletes from Russia and Belarus would have the ability to proceed to take part in sports activities occasions, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so due to the assault on their nation,” the I.O.C. mentioned in a press release, which referred to “a dilemma which can’t be solved.”

It was not instantly clear how the I.O.C.’s motion would have an effect on the Paralympic Video games, that are scheduled to open this week in Beijing. Federations that govern particular person sports activities will largely be accountable for implementing any measures in opposition to Russian or Belarusian athletes. However the advice may give cowl to organizations like FIFA, world soccer’s governing physique, to take stronger motion in opposition to Russia. FIFA has come underneath heavy strain from its members to eject Russia from the qualifying match for the World Cup, a step it has thus far resisted.

Russia and the I.O.C. have tangled up to now over the nation’s illicit doping efforts. At this month’s Olympic Video games, for instance, Russian athletes didn’t compete underneath the Russian flag or the nation’s identify. As a substitute, its athletes had been introduced as representing the “Russian Olympic Committee,” a penalty that had no actual impact on competitions themselves. When Russian athletes gained medals, their nationwide anthem was not performed.

EU warns Belarus opening door to Russian nukes after vote | News


Transfer comes as Belarus faces criticism for permitting Russian forces use its territory as a launchpad to assault Ukraine.

The European Union has warned that Belarus might begin internet hosting Russian nuclear weapons after a “very harmful” resolution at a referendum to drop the nation’s non-nuclear standing.

“We all know what does it imply for Belarus to be nuclear. It implies that Russia will put nuclear weapons in Belarus and it is a very harmful path,” EU overseas coverage chief Josep Borrell mentioned on Monday.

The transfer by Belarus got here because the nation was being condemned internationally for getting used as a launchpad by Russian forces to assault neighbouring Ukraine.

Borrell slammed the “faux referendum” on constitutional adjustments. The amendments enable the nation to host nuclear weapons and Russian forces completely. It additionally prolonged the rule of chief Alexander Lukashenko.

About 800 folks had been reportedly arrested after the vote sparked the largest protests in months and hundreds took to the streets in Belarus.

The vote to alter the structure was handed by 65 %, based on official information.

Lukashenko has launched a ferocious crackdown on opponents since mass protests erupted after he claimed victory at an election in 2020 referred to as fraudulent by the West.

The Belarusian chief, who has been in energy since 1994, has shifted decisively in direction of Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin helped prop up his rule.

EU sanctions on the best way

The EU is about to impose a brand new host of powerful sanctions on Belarus as Minsk has facilitated Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine by performing as a staging submit for forces concerned within the assault.

Western allies concern the constitutional shift from Belarus – which neighbours three EU and NATO international locations – might now convey extra Russian nuclear weapons nearer to their border.

Russia has the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and an enormous cache of ballistic missiles.

Putin ordered his nuclear forces on excessive alert on Sunday in a transfer the West mentioned was “completely unacceptable”.

In the meantime, america shuttered its embassy in Minsk and allowed non-emergency workers and relations to depart the embassy in Moscow.

“We took these steps on account of safety and security points stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified assault by Russian navy forces in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned.

A photograph posted on Twitter by US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher on Monday confirmed mission workers reducing the American flag. All American workers have departed Belarus, Fisher tweeted.

The US relocated its embassy operations in Ukraine from the capital Kyiv to the western metropolis of Lviv two weeks in the past as Russian forces amassed at Ukraine’s borders.

Ukraine, Russia begin talks on Belarus border | News


DEVELOPING STORY,

Ukraine seeks ceasefire and instant withdrawal of Russian troops.

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian officers have started on the Belarusian border as diplomatic isolation and financial sanctions on Russia deepen 4 days after invading Ukraine.

Talks started on Monday with Ukraine calling for an instantaneous ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces.

Russia has been cagier, with the Kremlin declining to touch upon Moscow’s intention in negotiations.

It was not clear whether or not any progress may very well be achieved after President Vladimir Putin on Thursday launched the assault and put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on excessive alert on Sunday.

Russian forces seized two small cities in southeastern Ukraine and the realm round a nuclear energy plant, the Interfax information company stated on Monday.

The talks are being held on the border with sturdy Russian ally Belarus, the place a referendum on Sunday permitted a brand new structure ditching the nation’s non-nuclear standing at a time when the previous Soviet republic has change into a launch pad for Russian troops invading Ukraine.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Ukraine DAY 5

The Western-led response to the invasion has been sweeping, with sanctions that successfully reduce off Moscow’s main monetary establishments from successive Western markets, sending Russia’s rouble forex down 30 p.c towards the greenback on Monday.

International locations additionally stepped up weapons provides to Ukraine.

On Monday, blasts have been heard earlier than daybreak within the capital Kyiv and within the main jap metropolis of Kharkiv, Ukrainian authorities stated. However Russian floor forces’ makes an attempt to seize key city centres had been repelled, they added.

Russia’s defence ministry, nevertheless, stated its forces had taken over the cities of Berdyansk and Enerhodar in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhya area in addition to the realm across the Zaporizhzhya nuclear energy plant, Interfax reported.

The plant’s operations continued usually, it stated.

Ukraine denied that the nuclear plant had fallen into Russian palms, based on the information company.

There was preventing across the Ukrainian port metropolis of Mariupol all through the evening, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration, stated on tv on Monday. He didn’t say whether or not Russian forces had gained or misplaced any floor, nor present any casualty figures.

No less than 102 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since Thursday, with an additional 304 wounded, however the actual determine is feared to be “significantly larger”, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet stated on Monday.

Greater than half one million individuals have fled to neighbouring international locations, based on the UN refugee company.

Reporting from Moscow, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith stated Ukraine and Russia “appear very, very far aside on what they need out of the talks”.

“It appears Russia is continuous preventing, even whereas these talks are going down … so either side are very far aside and it it’s onerous to see how they’ll come to an settlement on a ceasefire.”

Belarus votes to give up non-nuclear status | Russia-Ukraine crisis News


Belarusian referendum renouncing impartial standing comes as Russia put nuclear deterrent forces on excessive alert amid Ukraine battle.

Voters in Belarus have accepted constitutional reforms that can enable the nation to host nuclear weapons at a time when the previous Soviet republic has grow to be a launchpad for Russian troops invading Ukraine.

Russian information businesses on Monday cited the Belarusian elections fee as saying that some 65.2 % of people that took half in a referendum voted in favour of the change.

The businesses mentioned voter turnout stood at 78.63 %.

The consequence got here as little shock, given the tightly managed rule of President Alexander Lukashenko.

It might convey nuclear weapons again on Belarusian soil for the primary time for the reason that nation gave them up after the autumn of the Soviet Union and raises the stakes at a time when Lukashenko has fallen behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army assault on Ukraine.

Putin on Sunday ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces be placed on excessive alert in a dramatic escalation of tensions with the West.

Talking at a polling station on Sunday, Lukashenko mentioned that he might ask Russia to return nuclear weapons to Belarus.

“In the event you [the West] switch nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I’ll flip to Putin to return the nuclear weapons that I gave away with none situations,” Lukashenko mentioned.

The constitutional referendum shedding Belarus’s non-nuclear standing opens the way in which for stronger army cooperation with Russia, which deployed forces to Belarusian territory underneath the pretext of army drills after which despatched them rolling into Ukraine as a part of the invasion that started on Thursday.

The reforms additionally cement Lukashenko’s 27-year-old grip on energy as they permit the president to remain in energy till 2035 and provides him lifetime immunity from prosecution as soon as he leaves workplace.

Moreover, the reforms give powers to the All-Belarusian Individuals’s Meeting, introduced collectively to find out the nation’s priorities for the following 5 years and potential amendments to the structure.

The meeting was created by Lukashenko and consists of get together loyalists, native councils, officers and activists of pro-government organisations.

The West has mentioned it is not going to recognise the outcomes of the referendum happening towards the background of a sweeping crackdown on home opponents of the federal government.

Protesters demanding a brand new election and Lukashenko’s elimination have confronted repression from the authorities, with greater than 35,000 arrested and hundreds brutally crushed. Key opposition figures, together with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s major contender within the election, left the nation amid the clampdown, together with hundreds of Belarusians.

Tsikhanouskaya known as on Belarusians to make use of the referendum vote to protest the battle towards Ukraine.

“For a very long time I didn’t know begin this enchantment. As a result of how will you demand brave actions from individuals who stay in concern for a 12 months and a half? The battle we’ve been dragged into began two days in the past,” she mentioned in a particular tackle.

“However till now, the Belarusians haven’t declared publicly that they’re towards it, they haven’t proven this to the Ukrainians by their actions. So do I’ve the best to ask you for motion? Perhaps not. However I gained’t forgive myself if I don’t strive.”

In movies and images posted on social media, dozens of individuals gathered at polling stations in Minsk and different cities in Belarus. A number of movies confirmed the gang chanting “No to battle”.

The workplace of Ukraine’s president on Sunday mentioned a delegation would meet Russian officers close to the Belarus border. The Ukrainian international minister mentioned he obtained reassurances that Belarus wouldn’t become involved within the battle whereas talks went on.