Mihkelson: Moscow covertly taking over Belarus next to fighting in Ukraine

Marko Mihkelson.
Marko Mihkelson. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Belarus is no longer an independent country but de facto occupied by Russia, Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

Mihkelson suggested that Russia is ramping up its control of Belarus, which lessens the say of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

"We should treat it as fact today that Belarus is no longer an independent country. Belarus has been de facto occupied by Russia since 2020 when the popular uprising was quashed. The final step to really cement Russia's dominion over Belarus is the decision to move tactical nuclear weapons under Russia's control to the country. It works to lessen Lukashenko's say in matters," Mihkelson said.

The MP suggested that the main aim of moving nuclear weapons to Belarus is to tie the country more securely to Moscow.

"While there is a brutal and genocidal war meant to destroy Ukraine still going on – which goal Russia has not given up – Russia is also working to take over Belarus, albeit in a more covert way. For the same purpose of expanding the empire's borders. And because Belarus is strategically important purely because of its location, all manner of Russian military activity there, including moving nuclear arms to the region, poses a threat to our security," Mihkelson said.

He said that Lukashenko was not given a choice whether to allow Russian nuclear weapons to be stationed in Belarus. "He's only financial backing is from Russia, also as concerns his regime staying in place, and Lukashenko didn't really have anything to say. Nuclear weapons are a clear message from Russia that Belarus is firmly under our control."

Speculation surfaced over the weekend according to which Lukashenko's health had deteriorated. These have not been verified. Mihkelson said that such rumors are probably spread because Lukashenko's exit is eagerly awaited in Belarus.

"Both in Moscow, to some extent, and among those Belarusians who would like to see a dictatorless Belarus. But he is tough enough to cling to power," Mihkelson suggested, adding that once a dictator is forced to leave, the question of what next is always created.

The MP said that Lukashenko's son Viktor Lukashenko could be next in line. He also suggested the change in leadership in Belarus could be tied to the end of the Ukraine war.

"If Ukraine wins, it is clear that the Belarusian battalions currently fighting for its survival will not remain in Ukraine, and the pressure to deoccupy Belarus will be far greater than we can imagine."

Mihkelson said that the dictatorship means suggesting Lukashenko's position is weak is not accurate. He said that anti-government sentiment has been pacified following the 2020 protests, with many leaders in the authorities' crosshairs.

"Official figures put the number of political prisoners in Belarus at 1,500. The mood among the Belarusians is that it's too dangerous to do anything in the street today. But I also believe that most people would not back Lukashenko today if they had a choice," Mihkelson added.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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