Aleksandr Lukashenka’s illness is a turning point that could soon lead to surprising developments within Belarus and regarding the war in Ukraine.
What is the real state of health of Belarus dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka and will he still be able to continue leading his country?
The question was also discussed enthusiastically over the weekend in Tallinn, where the annual Lennart Meri conference focused on security issues was held.
At the moment, it is known that Lukashenka has to be hospitalized and his illness has also been confirmed by a representative of the Russian Duma. The only accurate information that has been given to the public is that it is not the corona virus.
Instead, rumors about Lukashenka’s fate are intensifying. According to the wildest rumours, Lukashenka may have even been poisoned, while other sources speak of heart problems and third claims he had surgery for prostate problems. However, according to official sources in Belarus, it is just a common flu.
Andrei Sannikou, a Belarusian opposition activist currently living in exile and challenger to Lukashenka’s presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, is certain of at least one thing:
– Lukashenka is seriously ill and he has been for a long time. You can see that just by looking, for example, at how he looks now and what he looked like a year ago, Sannikou commented to IS.
Sannikau also appears in international contexts under the surname Sannikov, as it is one of the transliterations of his surname. He is well aware of Lukashenka’s machinations, as he himself was imprisoned and tortured in connection with the 2010 presidential election after criticizing the dishonesty of the Lukashenka regime and its crackdown on the opposition.
According to Sanikou, Lukashenka is a well-known person in denial of the corona virus, but his health problems may stem from the corona.
It is learned that he has at least one kidney problem and he has diabetes. Apart from this, there is also a problem in his joints.
Whatever the cause of Lukashenka’s illness, it opens up an entirely new situation that could have radical consequences for future events of the war within Belarus and in Ukraine.
Harry O’Hara-Aho, former intelligence chief of the defense forces and current negotiations officer at the Ministry of Defense, is convinced that Lukashenka’s illness has also caused a stir in the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
– The Kremlin is currently preparing to act in the event that Lukashenka can no longer remain in power. Ohra-Aho told IS in Tallinn that in that case, Russia would probably try to take over Belarus in some way, and this could completely change the situation regarding the war in Ukraine as well.
The general belief so far has been that Lukashenka has managed to put the brakes on Putin’s desire to use Belarusian soil to his advantage in the war in Ukraine. If Lukashenka were to step down, the situation could be favorable for Putin – at least in the event that the leadership of Belarus would be even more loyal to the Kremlin than Lukashenka.
– Ukraine’s northern front will probably be fully available to Putin, Ohara-Aho estimates.
If Lukashenka dies unexpectedly, the Kremlin may find a pretext to announce, for example, that it needs to bring in Russian troops to defend Belarus from threats from the West and Ukraine. However, this would not be a risk-free move for Putin, as both the military and the people of Belarus have been very reluctant to engage in Putin’s war.
– So far Lukashenka has had to consider the possibility that his own troops will not obey him. So, how would the people and soldiers of Belarus react if Russia tried to completely take over Belarus? Barley-aho thought.
Lukashenka’s apparent unwellness at the Red Square victory parade on 9 May immediately sparked a rumor mill that he might have even been poisoned. The poison theory has been maintained by Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Gordon, among others.
British Russia expert Keir Giles IS assesses that at this stage all options should be considered, because knowing the Kremlin nothing is impossible.
Russia has never hesitated to throw obstacles out of its way, so that option should be considered for Lukashenka as well, Giles said.
The sudden death of 64-year-old Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei last November is also fresh in our memory. The official cause of death is stated to be a heart attack, but according to persistent claims, Mecki was actually poisoned by the FSB.
Mekin has reportedly held secret talks with the West on how to prevent Belarus from falling under Russian control, which is why Russia may have pushed him out of the way. According to other claims, the liberal Mecki may have committed suicide.
Read more: The foreign minister of Belarus has passed away
According to Sannikou, from the point of view of Russia, it is not at all clear how they should act in relation to Belarus now.
If and when Ukraine launches a major offensive against Russian forces, it may be in Russia’s best interests for Belarus to remain as stable as possible for them. On the other hand, a sudden change of power in Belarus will also be a completely new twist and blow for the West – and it will probably provide the Kremlin with an opportunity to turn the whole game in its favor regarding the war in Ukraine.
Russia is definitely trying to interfere in the events in some way. There are also leaders in Belarus who are more loyal to the Kremlin than Lukashenka, and one of them is Aljaksandr Walfowitsch, the current secretary of the Security Council, Sannikou said.
– On the other hand, a future major invasion of Ukraine could be what stops Russia from doing anything radical in Belarus. Putin knows that the people and army of Belarus are against the war, so he has to be careful with his actions.
If Ukraine successfully survives the war, it would guarantee a new revolution in Belarus.
According to Sannikau, the opposition in Belarus is also closely monitoring Lukashenka’s health status and the chain reaction triggered by his return. If Lukashenka were to be sidelined or even die now, the opposition’s possibilities for action would still be limited, as most key opposition figures are either in prison or in exile.
– In any case, some dynamics follow from this (getting sick). And if Ukraine successfully avoids the war, it would guarantee a new revolution in Belarus, Sannikou said.
The Kremlin has long-term plans for Belarus, which include a continued increase in Moscow’s influence, even if the country does not want to be fully absorbed into Russia.
More information about the Kremlin’s plans was recently obtained through a leak. According to the documents, Russia plans to take full control of Belarus by 2030.