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 financial system and having no alternative however to assist the Russian invasion of his neighbour, the Belarusian president is effectively on his manner of turning into a de facto puppet of the Kremlin, with devastating penalties for Belarus.

Rising dependence on Russia

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

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

One of many predominant issues his regime faces is the faltering Belarusian financial system, which is presently burdened with unsustainable public overseas debt. Though it quantities to solely about 30 % of the Belarusian gross home product (GDP), it’s nearly completely 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 12 months Belarus has to repay in extra of $3.3bn in overseas debt, and it had hoped for a Russian mortgage to do this.

Earlier this month, the Russia-led Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Improvement refused a $3.5bn mortgage to Belarus, though the Kremlin promised to contemplate 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 grow to be extra profound in current months, as Lithuania and Ukraine banned the transit by means of 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 12 months in revenues.

Commerce is extraordinarily necessary for the Belarusian export-oriented financial system. Ukraine is the second largest buying and selling companion for Belarus, with exports to its southern neighbour totalling $4.5bn final 12 months. Belarus will seemingly lose some if not all of those exports. The approaching 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 not commander-in-chief within the nation. He might not have even been conscious of Putin’s determination 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 International Minister Vladimir Makei pledged that every one Russian troops would depart Belarus after the Russia-Belarus army workouts “Union Resolve” concluded.

Russian troops not solely remained in place, but additionally 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 interim there have been no confirmed stories of Belarusian armed forces combating alongside Russian ones, Lukashenko not too long ago acknowledged that: “Our troops are usually not [in Ukraine] but when it turns into vital, 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 seemingly reinforcement of NATO forces in Jap Europe.

A puppet of the Kremlin

Lukashenko is not making an attempt 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 lots of causes to imagine that he thinks Belarus, like Ukraine, has no official proper to exist. In the intervening time, it may be handy for the Kremlin to maintain Lukashenko on a good leash throughout the official borders of Belarus, whereas controlling its defence and home politics. But the result of the struggle in Ukraine might have grave penalties for Belarus.

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

He can also determine to annex Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk Individuals’s Republic and Luhansk Individuals’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 almost three many years in energy. Solely a small minority of Belarusians would welcome such a union.

And already, there may be rising frustration throughout the Belarusian public with the strain of the sanctions and compelled assist for the invasion of Ukraine, which matches towards the standard Belarusian mentality of neutrality.

Anger amongst peculiar Belarusians was fairly palpable through the referendum, when chants of “No to struggle!” erupted amongst individuals gathered to vote. Though in the mean time, it’s unlikely that anybody throughout the Belarusian regime will converse out towards Lukashenko, this will likely change, as Belarus begins to undergo from extra sanctions imposed because of its assist 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 USA 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 on account of 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 industrial 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 embrace an entire withdrawal of Russian forces.

A photograph posted on Twitter by US ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher confirmed mission employees decreasing 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 USA 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 increased, 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 closing resolution, based on US officers. The US authorities over the weekend urged residents to contemplate leaving Russia instantly on industrial 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 must be banned from international sports activities competitions.

Though the I.O.C. left exceptions for when adjustments in occasions have been “not attainable 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 also needs to 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 be capable 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 liable for imposing any measures towards Russian or Belarusian athletes. However the advice may give cowl to organizations like FIFA, world soccer’s governing physique, to take stronger motion towards Russia. FIFA has come below heavy stress from its members to eject Russia from the qualifying match for the World Cup, a step it has to date resisted.

Russia and the I.O.C. have tangled prior to now over the nation’s illicit doping efforts. At this month’s Olympic Video games, for instance, Russian athletes didn’t compete below the Russian flag or the nation’s identify. As a substitute, its athletes have been introduced as representing the “Russian Olympic Committee,” a penalty that had no actual impact on competitions themselves. When Russian athletes received 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” determination at a referendum to drop the nation’s non-nuclear standing.

“We all know what does it imply for Belarus to be nuclear. It signifies that Russia will put nuclear weapons in Belarus and it is a very harmful path,” EU international coverage chief Josep Borrell stated 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 modifications. The amendments permit the nation to host nuclear weapons and Russian forces completely. It additionally prolonged the rule of chief Alexander Lukashenko.

About 800 individuals had been reportedly arrested after the vote sparked the largest protests in months and 1000’s took to the streets in Belarus.

The vote to vary the structure was handed by 65 %, in response to official knowledge.

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 the 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 appearing as a staging submit for forces concerned within the assault.

Western allies concern the constitutional shift from Belarus – which neighbours three EU and NATO nations – might now deliver 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 stated 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 as a consequence of safety and security points stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified assault by Russian army forces in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated.

A photograph posted on Twitter by US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher on Monday confirmed mission employees reducing the American flag. All American employees 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 goal in negotiations.

It was not clear whether or not any progress could possibly 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 world round a nuclear energy plant, the Interfax information company mentioned on Monday.

The talks are being held on the border with robust Russian ally Belarus, the place a referendum on Sunday authorised a brand new structure ditching the nation’s non-nuclear standing at a time when the previous Soviet republic has turn 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 foreign money down 30 p.c in opposition to the greenback on Monday.

Nations additionally stepped up weapons provides to Ukraine.

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

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

The plant’s operations continued usually, it mentioned.

Ukraine denied that the nuclear plant had fallen into Russian arms, in accordance with 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, mentioned on tv on Monday. He didn’t say whether or not Russian forces had gained or misplaced any floor, nor present any casualty figures.

Not less than 102 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since Thursday, with an additional 304 wounded, however the true determine is feared to be “significantly greater”, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet mentioned on Monday.

Greater than half one million folks have fled to neighbouring international locations, in accordance with the UN refugee company.

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

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

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators agree to hold talks in Belarus : NPR

Ukrainian service members gather unexploded shells after preventing with Russian forces within the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within the morning of Feb. 26, 2022, based on Ukrainian service personnel on the scene.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Photos


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Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Photos


Ukrainian service members gather unexploded shells after preventing with Russian forces within the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within the morning of Feb. 26, 2022, based on Ukrainian service personnel on the scene.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Photos

The workplace of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned in a message on the Telegram app {that a} delegation of the Ukrainian authorities will meet for talks with Russian officers close to the Pripyat River in Belarus.

Russia had earlier proposed holding talks in Gomel, a Belarusian metropolis close to the border with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian response didn’t specify when the assembly would happen.

The Ukrainian president’s workplace mentioned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pledged that each one planes, helicopters and missiles stationed in Belarus will stay on the bottom throughout the Ukrainian delegation’s journey, talks and return, NPR’s Frank Langfitt reported.

Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., mentioned in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that the federal government is prepared for any peace talks that will cease the preventing and see Russian forces go away Ukraine.

“Our president from the start, even earlier than the battle began, all the time was targeted on the diplomatic answer. And even after they began the battle, he truly known as for peace talks on a regular basis,” Markarova mentioned. “However he all the time mentioned, ‘we’re prepared for peace talks, we aren’t able to give up.'”

Belarus holds referendum to renounce non-nuclear status | Russia-Ukraine crisis News

The referendum shedding Belarus’ impartial standing comes as Russia put nuclear deterrent forces on excessive alert.

Belarus is holding a referendum to undertake a brand new structure that may ditch its non-nuclear standing, at a time when the nation has turn out to be a launchpad for Russian troops invading Ukraine.

The vote on Sunday is nearly sure to move beneath the tightly managed rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, bringing 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.

Lukashenko has fallen behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s navy assault on Ukraine after earlier enjoying an middleman function between the 2 neighbours.

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

Talking at a polling station, Lukashenko stated that he may ask Russia to return nuclear weapons to Belarus.

“Should 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 stated.

The constitutional referendum shedding Belarus’ impartial standing opens the best way for stronger navy cooperation with Russia, which deployed forces to Belarusian territory beneath the pretext of navy drills after which despatched them rolling into Ukraine as a part of the invasion that started on Thursday.

The amendments will even cement Lukashenko’s 27-year-old grip on energy, permitting the president to remain in energy till 2035 and giving him lifetime immunity from prosecution as soon as he leaves workplace.

Moreover, the referendum provides powers to the All-Belarusian Individuals’s Meeting, introduced collectively to find out Belarus’ priorities for the subsequent 5 years and potential amendments to the structure.

The meeting was created by Lukashenko and contains social gathering loyalists, native councils, officers and activists of pro-government organisations.

The workplace of Ukraine’s president on Sunday stated a delegation would meet Russian officers close to the Belarus border. The Ukrainian overseas minister stated he obtained reassurances that Belarus wouldn’t get entangled in warfare whereas talks went on.

The West has stated it won’t recognise the outcomes of the referendum going down towards the background of a sweeping crackdown on home opponents of the federal government.

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

Tsikhanouskaya referred to as on Belarusians to make use of the referendum vote to protest the warfare towards Ukraine.

“For a very long time I didn’t know easy methods to begin this attraction. As a result of how will you demand brave actions from individuals who stay in concern for a 12 months and a half? The warfare we’ve been dragged into began two days in the past,” she stated 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 correct to ask you for motion? Possibly not. However I received’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 group chanting “No to warfare”.

Ukraine rejects Belarus as Russia talks host, lists alternatives | Russia-Ukraine crisis News

Kremlin says a delegation of navy officers and diplomats arrived in Gomel for talks with Ukraine; Kyiv says it needs ‘solely actual negotiations’.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine is prepared for peace talks with Russia however not in neighbouring Belarus, an ally of Moscow which used it as a staging floor for its multipronged invasion.

Talking in Russian in a video message on Sunday, Zelenskyy left the door open for negotiations elsewhere and listed the cities of Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as different venues.

He mentioned different areas had been additionally potential however careworn Ukraine doesn’t settle for Russia’s collection of Belarus.

Earlier, the Kremlin mentioned a Russian delegation had arrived within the Belarusian metropolis of Gomel for talks and was ready for the Ukrainian officers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned the delegation contains representatives from the overseas ministry, defence ministry and presidential administration.

“We’re prepared to begin these negotiations in Gomel,” Peskov mentioned, based on the TASS information company.

However Zelenskyy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak mentioned Ukraine needs solely “actual” negotiations, calling Russia’s choice to ship the delegation to Belarus for talks “propaganda”.

“They arrived in Gomel figuring out that it was pointless. And now they are saying – ‘we’re ready’,” he instructed Reuters information company.

“Zelenskyy’s place stays unchanged: solely actual negotiations, no ultimatums.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, with troops transferring from Belarus within the north, in addition to from the east and the south.

Russia shuts airspace along western border with Ukraine, Belarus | News

The transfer comes after President Putin introduced a ‘particular army operation’ within the Donbas area.

Russia on Thursday introduced the closure of its airspace for civilian flights on the western border with Ukraine and Belarus.

A Discover to Airmen or Discover to Air Missions (NOTAM) was printed after Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced a particular army operation within the Donbas area.

“Using airspace on Russia’s western border with Ukraine and Belarus has been quickly suspended as a result of excessive menace to the protection of flights of civilian plane after using weapons and army tools,” an announcement mentioned.

In one other assertion on Thursday, the Russian defence ministry mentioned it was utilizing “high-precision weapons” to disable air defence programs, army airports, and the air power in Ukraine.

INTERACTIVE- Ukraine Russia head-to-head(Al Jazeera)

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin authorised “a particular army operation” in opposition to Ukraine to remove what he known as a critical menace, saying his intention was to demilitarise Russia’s southern neighbour.

In an early morning handle on state tv, Putin mentioned he had been left with no alternative however to launch the operation, the scope of which was not instantly clear however appeared to go properly past serving to Russian-backed separatists in japanese Ukraine.

“I’ve determined to conduct a particular army operation,” mentioned Putin, seated at a desk within the Kremlin subsequent to a battery of telephones, with the Russian flag behind him.

“Its objective is to guard individuals who have been subjected to bullying and genocide … for the final eight years. And for this, we are going to attempt for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine.

“And to convey to court docket those that dedicated quite a few bloody crimes in opposition to civilians, together with in opposition to residents of the Russian Federation.”

Ukraine dismisses as invented Russian accusations of genocide in opposition to folks residing in components of its east seized by Russian-backed separatists in 2014.

Kyiv has mentioned Putin was in search of a synthetic pretext to assault it.