Defense minister: Lukashenko looking to give Russia pretext to intervene

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa).
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) has condemned the actions of Belrusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, saying the newly re-elected leader has been creating a straw man enemy which might give neighboring Russia a pretext to intervene, as well as continuing repression against the Belarusian people in the aftermath of the election over two weeks ago.

'By emphasizing the threat of NATO, Lukashenko is trying to shift the blame for the domestic crisis on a phantom enemy which doesn't exist and to give Russia an excuse to intervene," Luik said Wednesday, according to a ministry press release. 

The defense minister was in Berlin, meeting with his German opposite number Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as part of a wider EU defense ministers' get together, the first of its kind since the coronavirus pandemic began in spring. 

"At the same time, Lukashenko has embarked on a series of new domestic repressions, which are now directed primarily against protest movement leaders," Luik added. 

Both ministers said of key importance is how to support the democratic will of the Belarusian people. Democratic values and their fostering in Belarus was at stake, not whether that country could one day become an EU member, Kramp-Karrenbauer added. 

The pair also discussed the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which Luik called another sad example of Russia's disregard for both human life and democratic freedoms. 

Navalny, 44, is in a German hospital, having been taken there last Saturday, where he remains in an artificially-induced coma. 

That Navalny was poisoned is beyond question, the German defense minister added, though it was currently not clear what toxin had been used or what Navalny's long-term situation might be.

The ministers also discussed broader EU, NATO and bilateral security issues, and Luik thanked Germany for its contribution to Baltic Air policing duties ahead of its air force's arrival at Ämari Air Base, where it will replace the French Air Force planes currently based there as part of the Baltic air policing rotational system. 

A total of 13 EU defense minister were in Berlin Wednesday; other topics for disscussion included the situation in the West African country of Mali – whose French-led peace-keeping efforts Estonia's defense forces contribute to – and in the Mediterranean. 


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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