The last week of the year has left a somewhat striking image, but which allows us to intuit some scenarios about what may happen in the course of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The president of Belarus, Alexandr Lukashenko, enjoyed a hockey game on Wednesday in the same team as his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who, playing with other well-known professionals in the ‘white team’, beat the ‘red team’ 18-7 , with seven goals from Putin and two from Lukashenko.
Subsequently took place a rmeeting held in St. Petersburg, where the Belarusian leader He thanked Putin for the Kremlin’s political and economic support in the face of Western sanctions, which allowed the former Soviet republic to break out of isolation. “I am very grateful, first of all, to you personally, for all that you have done for Belarus,” Lukashenko said during the meeting.
He added that “any request” made by Minsk is echoed in the Kremlin and “state companies, the government and the banks” react immediately. For this reason, he pointed out, the country’s economy continues to grow, even in “difficult times,” and trade exchanges rose to 36% this year. In addition, both exhibited in this way their unity in the face of the Western sanctions that Minsk has faced since the 2020 presidential elections, described as fraudulent by the opposition and Western foreign ministries.
“Five rounds of sanctions have already been imposed and there is talk of a sixth. Completely stupid sanctions that nobody needs,” Lukashenko said in this regard. On the other hand, bilateral integration was the key topic of the conversations in this sixth meeting between the two leaders so far this year: “We will be able to talk slowly about our bilateral relations within the framework of the creation of the State Union,” he said. Putin at the beginning of the negotiations.
Also, this very Wednesday Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of Memorial International, a renowned human rights association in the country and one of the few remaining independent groups. “Dissident voices are threatened in Russia. This has worsened super fast in the last year,” he said this Thursday on the microphones of the SER Natalya Sekretareva, lawyer and spokesperson for the closed organization.
Just 24 hours before the call between Biden and Putin
All this happened the day before US President Joe Biden, together with his Russian counterpart, addressed the agenda of the January 10 talks on the security guarantees required by Moscow on Thursday by phone, the spokesman said Thursday. of the Kremlin, Dmitri Peskov.
“This is a continuation of the videoconference conversation (on December 7) and, in addition, the discussion of a series of current issues related to the consultations scheduled for January 10, 11 and 12”, said the representative of the Russian Presidency during its daily telephone press conference.
Peskov indicated that this afternoon’s conversation will be by telephone and will take place at the initiative of Putin, who at his annual press conference demanded “immediate” guarantees. “The objective of the conversation is very clear, to continue the debate on the issues that are on the agenda of the recent meeting by videoconference,” he stressed.
Belarus is no longer a neutral country
As Russian support for Belarus increases and integration between the two countries grows, Minsk abandons the policy of neutrality that allowed it for years to maintain a certain balance between Russia and the West. According to the press, Putin and Lukashenko spoke about the draft of the new Belarusian Constitution presented this week to end the political crisis that erupted in August 2020.
The document, which will be put to a referendum in 2022, withdrew the clause that Belarus is a nuclear-weapon-free country, in line with Lukashenko’s assertion that Minsk is willing to host such Russian weapons in the face of the NATO threat. . Furthermore, Minsk would also, under the new Magna Carta, renounce its current neutrality status, which was contradicted by its membership of the post-Soviet military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Moscow also expects from Minsk the early recognition of the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, a step that Lukashenko avoided since 2014. A month ago, the Belarusian president said that Crimea is de facto and ‘de jure’ Russian and announced that he has planned visit her in 2022.