Estonian diplomat sees no signs of a power shift in Belarus

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Source: SCANPIX / AFP

Rumors of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko's severe illness and a looming power shift in the country do not seem to be true, Estonia's special representative with the Belarusian opposition Marko Koplimaa told ERR. The diplomat emphasized the extremely negative effect Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus would have.

Koplimaa said that this week's stories, which seemed to suggest Lukashenko was rushed to the hospital in critical condition while on a visit to Moscow, are all based on a single source's information, and that it is quite clear by now that Lukashenko has resurfaced in Minsk and allegedly met with head of the Russian central bank Elvira Nabiullina on Monday.

The diplomat suggested that while Lukashenko will likely handpick his replacement when the day comes, there is little to suggest the Belarusian dictator aims to relinquish power in the country at this time.

Koplimaa said that while it is completely clear that Belarusian units are fighting on the Ukrainian side in the war, claims according to which they could return to Ukraine to stage a coup are unrealistic at best. "On the one hand, Ukraine has no interest in opening a new front, while the units in question probably aren't big enough to make a difference," he said.

Russian nuclear weapons would be a disaster for Belarus

Commenting on Lukashenko's claim from last week that Russian nuclear weapons have already started moving to Belarus, Estonia's special representative said the effects will be disastrous. "It is a catastrophic blow to the future of Belarus as an independent country. It gives Russia many more levers for controlling life in Belarus, especially during confusing times."

He suggested that Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus would give the former "an immense amount of direct influence over Belarus' domestic policy" should Lukashenko eventually bow out.

Opposition's situation difficult

On the situation of the Belarusian opposition, Koppelmaa, who resides in Vilnius, as do many Belarusian activists, admitted it is very difficult.

"The people working on the side of democratic forces in Belarus have dedicated their lives to keeping alive the idea of a democratic Belarus; they are fighting in very difficult conditions," Koplimaa said.

He pointed to a culture of total Russification in Belarus where Belarusian identity, language, culture and historical narratives are suppressed unto reports of punishments for merely speaking Belarusian.

"It is extremely difficult for all representatives of democratic forces in Belarus to watch how the country is losing its independence and culture. However, their will to do something and change the situation is just a strong. It cannot be easy for them on the personal level as many of them have relatives and families in Belarus and in danger. It is also difficult because results are nowhere to be seen. However, that is all the more reason they need our support," Koplimaa said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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