9 February 2023, Thursday, 9:00
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Ukrainian Political Expert on Lukashenka’s Statement: Masks Slipped. Demarche Required

Ukrainian Political Expert on Lukashenka’s Statement: Masks Slipped. Demarche Required

Kyiv should reconsider its economic cooperation with the Belarusian regime.

The usurper Lukashenka stated that "Crimea is Russian de jure and de facto". Alexander Khara, a Ukrainian diplomat, an expert on foreign and security policy and director of the international relations department of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation, expressed an opinion in an interview with Charter97.org that Kyiv should respond harshly to such statements by the Belarusian dictator:

- Lukashenka has very often said that he is Russian but on the side of Ukraine. In fact, on March 27, 2014, Belarus voted against the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And, by and large, everything had already been said then. Another thing is that, for various reasons, Kyiv did not want to notice it and simply looked at it from the point of threats Lukashenka might bear if finally fell under Russia's influence. That's why criticism of this man was restrained.

Now the masks have slipped. Belarus is a military and political ally of the Russian Federation and shares its approach to the West. The opinion that the West is a threat to Russia and Belarus, its enemies are everywhere is widespread. Lukashenka, accordingly, cannot, in such an ideological construct, treat Ukraine in any other way but as a buffer or a peculiar tool of the West against Russia.

It is not new but extremely unpleasant. On the other hand, it's been a long time coming. Hence, Lukashenka's statement should have caused a "carpet call" to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, as a diplomatic reaction. A demarche must follow.

The Ukrainian side should also consider how to react in the economic sphere. If anyone has received huge dividends from the Russian war against Ukraine, it is Belarus. It has become offshore to transfer goods, people, and money between Ukraine and Russia. And naturally, Belarus has been a hidden threat to Ukraine all this time, as Russian special services have been operating from its territory.

Well, it's no secret that the Russian embassy relies on the capabilities of the Belarusian embassy to carry out their assignments. However, nothing has changed, because Lukashenka was not on the side of Ukraine from the very start, but on the side of his, as he said, brother.

- What instruments can Ukraine use in return for such hostile actions?

- Certainly, the diplomatic ones I mentioned. It must be a demarche. The second, unambiguously, is political statements. I guess the parliament of Ukraine should say its word. Unfortunately, there is a tacit non-recognition of Lukashenka. However, it makes no sense to hush it up in such conditions. It is necessary to voice it.

The next is cooperation in the economic and energy sphere. We observe an aggravation on the part of Lukashenka.

Therefore, Ukraine should make certain decisions to curtail economic cooperation with Belarus. In terms of recognition, comrade Lukashenka is an impostor. One must voice it.

However, the key point is that Kyiv must clearly stand together with the Belarusian people. Not tacitly, as it has been from the beginning, but absolutely publicly. One cannot be on the side of the person who has usurped power and who is driving the country, which is friendly to us, into oblivion.

A "union state" with Russia means a complete loss of independence and sovereignty for Belarus. It will also put an end to the country's national development. It will be just a Russified suburb of the empire. After a while, it will become a militarized buffer to threaten the Poles and the Lithuanians. Not only with migrants but also with missiles, planes. Therefore, the Belarusians will be in the scope of the Western countries, because an escalation requires a response.

- At military exercises, Kyiv is working out the invasion of illegal migrants from Belarus on its territory. One mention a possible escalation with Russia as well. Could Putin use Belarus as a springboard to attack Ukraine?

- I do not doubt that if the Kremlin decides on a large-scale invasion or an escalation so great that Ukraine agrees to Russian ultimatums, the territory of Belarus will be used for it even without Mr Lukashenka.

The Russian Federation and Belarus are allied states both in a formal (there are joint defence and foreign ministries colleges) and informal sense (the Belarusian military is very much intertwined with the Russian one).

I doubt there will be attempts to stop the Russian troops moving through the territory of Belarus as they head to Kyiv. I have absolutely no doubts.

I think there will be arguments for Putin to put pressure on Lukashenka and some semblance of legitimization of these actions. We realize that Belarus does not have a parliament, which could somehow be a counter-balance to Lukashenka. We also realise how badly civil society feels after imprisonments, murders, and repressions in Belarus.

- Has Ukraine changed its mind about Lukashenka? After all, he has long been called "the most popular foreign politician in Ukraine" in various ratings.

- Frankly speaking, I have not seen the latest polls. Of course, this shows some infantilism in Ukrainian society. Like any other country, we have a fairly active and, let us say, thinking minority. However, there is a large stratum of people who are not particularly interested in anything. Their opinion depends on the mass media.

Of course, some do not like to live in comfort in Ukraine. They consider themselves a part of the "Russian world," Russians (in the political sense, not in the ethnic one). So it was absolutely no surprise to me.

Of course, as a person who is interested in events in Belarus, knows some people and can observe the real picture, not through the propaganda channels, ignores articles about the "Belarusian miracle", but understands that the miracle rests on cheap Russian raw materials, I observe a systematic surrender the national interests to Russia. Everything is clear.

And finally, although it is probably one of the key issues: all the years Lukashenka has been in power, he has not only cleaned up the political field from his rivals; he has destroyed the patriotic, national aspirations of the Belarusians. He has preserved such "sovok", a Soviet man, a man without roots, who believes in the party and lives by that order, that agenda, which is imposed by the authorities.

If we see the real face of the regime when children and women are beaten, protesters and political opponents are killed, then this is not a role model for Ukraine, which has survived two Maidans. It lost probably a hundred of our best representatives during the Maidan of 2014.

By the way, it should be constantly recalled that the first two Ukrainians who died defending Ukrainian freedom and independence were Belarusian and an Armenian.

This is a crucial point. Ukraine is not a nationalist state. We have a political nation and representatives of all ethnicities and religious groups and language groups that support Ukrainian independence. It makes us very different from Russia, which is a unitary and Russian-nationalistic state. Although it is multinational and ostensibly federal.

So I don't think Ukrainians haven't noticed this since 2014 and haven't changed their attitude toward Lukashenka.