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Saturday, May 07, 2005

 

Lukashenka's Ukraine problem

From Radio Free Europe:

The fear of a Ukrainian-style revolution in Belarus is surely one of the main motives behind Lukashenka's tough approach to street demonstrations in Minsk. "You see, today they are working on what we will be doing in 2006. Ukraine is forming camps -- so to say, we will sent you revolutionaries from there," Lukashenka said in a somewhat paranoid stream-of-consciousness passage of his 19 April address. Whatever it meant, it is clear the Belarusian president believes Ukraine's Orange Revolution may prove infectious to some Belarusians.

But there may also be some other, less obvious reasons behind Lukashenka's dislike of Ukraine and Ukrainians under the rule of President Viktor Yushchenko. In mid-April, Ukraine backed a UN resolution condemning Belarus' human rights record. Earlier that month, in a visit to Washington, Yushchenko issued a joint statement with U.S. President George W. Bush pledging "to support the advance of freedom in countries such as Belarus and Cuba."

Lukashenka is not a man likely to take such things lightly. The Belarusian Interior Ministry on 5 April ordered that the five Ukrainian detainees be deported from Belarus after serving their jail terms and banned for five years from re-entering the country.

"The dialogue between Lukashenka and Belarus' western neighbors is developing very dynamically. Will breaking diplomatic ties be the next step?" the Belarusian independent weekly "Nasha Niva" commented sarcastically on Lukashenka's 19 April address, in which he accused Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine of working jointly to destabilize Belarus, and unspecified Western embassies of channeling "bagfuls" of money into Belarus to support the opposition.

Breaking diplomatic relations with Kyiv may not be an option for Minsk in the near future, but we need to remember that it is still more than a year until presidential election in Belarus. Lukashenka has amply proved in the past that he is capable of taking bewildering measures to counteract what he sees as threats to his rule.

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