Cairo International Book Fair suspended for five months over coronavirus concerns    Suspension of CAF boss Ahmad opens elections race wide open    GCC countries surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases: Reuters Tally    AstraZeneca novel COVID-19 vaccine can be 90% effective, results show    Egypt's military production minister, S. Korean ambassador discuss boosting industrial cooperation    UN urges civilian protection after Ethiopia's 72-hr deadline for Tigrayan forces    Germany, France and Britain to discuss Iran nuclear deal on Monday    Egypt-Kenya bilateral trade hits $303m in H1-20    Orascom Development inks $265m loan deal with four banks    China tests millions after coronavirus flareups in 3 cities    International Energy Agency tailors a plan for post COVID-19    Suarez says Uruguay players let guard down after spate of COVID-19 cases    Polling stations open at home for 1st stage of Egyptian parliamentary run-offs    Liverpool coach Klopp blasts broadcasters over hectic match schedule    Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state    Egypt detects 351 new coronavirus cases, 13 deaths on Sunday    Egyptian president inaugurates Middle East and Africa Smart Transportation Fair    Winners of the 5th Sharm El-Sheikh Int'l Theatre Festival for Youth    Hisham Talaat Mostafa Group's revenues increase by 20% in 2020 despite coronavirus    Egypt confirms 358 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths on Saturday    BREAKING: Sudan decides not to participate in ministerial meeting on GERD Saturday    G20 to discuss post-pandemic world, back debt relief    First day of Egypt's parliamentary runoffs kicks off for expats    US will reduce number of its troop in Iraq, Afghanistan    Don't miss the concerts of the 12th Cairo International Jazz Festival    Asia forms world's biggest trade bloc, a China-backed group excluding U.S    Egypt unveils largest archaeological discovery in 2020 with over 100 intact sarcophagi    Palestinians mourn the loss their longtime spokesman, Saeb Erekat    Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan to resume Nile dam talks today    Trump says won't blame Egypt for being ‘upset' over GERD dispute with Ethiopia    1st stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections kicks off on Saturday    Global Finance: Egypt's Tarek Amer among the world's top 20 central bank governors    Legend footballer Lionel Messi says he is forced to stay with Barcelona    Iraqi conglomerate eyes developing land that housed Mubarak-era ruling party HQ    Famous Egyptian actor Mahmoud Yassin passes away at 79    Legend Messi officially wants to leave Barcelona, hands transfer request    The Facebook Preacher's Search for Fame, and Egypt's Economy    Egypt calls on UNSC to address oil spill risks off Yemen coast    Egypt economically strong in face of COVID-19, reforms ongoing: International Cooperation Minister    Arafa Holding reports $144,000 COVID-19-related losses in April    Egypt's efforts in Libya to activate free will of Libyan people: Al-Sisi    Hyksos campaigns were internal takeover, not foreign invaders: study    COVID-19 affects Egypt sporting clubs    COVID-19 will soon turn to seasonal like swine flu: Presidential Health Advisor    ‘Egypt's Support' coalition convenes to discuss its Senate election list    Robbery attempt leads to discovery of Ptolemaic monuments in Qena    Flouting international guidance, Ethiopia unilaterally starts filling its Nile dam    Zaha speaks out after online racial abuse    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Putin bets on Lukashenko keeping power in Belarus for now: Sources
Published in Ahram Online on 21 - 08 - 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko will probably cling to power for now despite protests against him and is content to let him sweat it out, two sources close to the Kremlin said.
Lukashenko, a long-standing but truculent Moscow ally, has been buffeted by nearly two weeks of street protests which have loosened his grip on power in a country many Russians regard as another Russian region in all but name.
That, the two sources said, suits the Kremlin. It is keen to deal with a weakened Lukashenko who has resisted and sometimes publicly railed against Moscow's offers of deeper political and economic integration.
"They'll be happy to wait a while and watch him struggle a bit. They don't like him much, but they still back him," said one of the sources, who regularly speaks to senior government and Kremlin officials.
The second source said a diminished Lukashenko would suit the Kremlin's needs.
"Lukashenko will be critically weakened. You'll be able to make mince meat out of him. Our guys will definitely use this."
The Kremlin did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Putin has offered Lukashenko assistance if needed but the Kremlin said on Wednesday it saw no need to help Belarus militarily or otherwise for now.
An EU diplomat said Russia had many levers to influence the situation in Belarus and was probably not too concerned yet by events there.
"They have to be smart, but I think they still feel in control of the situation," the diplomat said.
The Kremlin has told EU nations to keep out of Belarus.
Joined by a treaty that proclaims, on paper, a "union state" with a Soviet-style red flag, the two countries usually have no border controls, and are culturally, linguistically and economically intertwined. Putin has pushed hard to make the union state more of a political and economic reality.
Russia has repeatedly asked Lukashenko to let it open an air base in Belarus, something he has refused in the past.
The first source said that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader who fled into exile in Lithuania last week, did not yet look like a serious contender in Moscow's eyes.
Tsikhanouskaya has led the biggest challenge to Lukashenko's 26-year rule. Speaking at her first press conference since leaving Belarus, she said on Friday that Russia had not made contact with her campaign.
Both sources said the Kremlin calculated that Lukashenko would weather the crisis, despite making tactical mistakes and resorting to heavy-handed policing.
"Everything will end badly for Lukashenko, just not yet," the second source said.
Lukashenko knows that Moscow "always supports existing regimes, no matter how unpalatable", the source said, and forecast that protests alone would not be enough to force him out.
"Somebody else needs to put pressure on him for that to happen, and there's nobody to do that."
A spokeswoman for Lukashenko could not immediately be reached for comment.
Russian energy exports flow via Belarus to the West, Moscow supplies cheap oil and gas to Belarus, and Russian troops have taken part in huge war games on Belarusian soil in the past.
Ukraine's Commander in Chief at the time, Viktor Muzhenko, told Reuters in 2017 that he believed Russia had left thousands of troops behind in Belarus after a huge military exercise, something which both Belarus and Russia have denied.
The Russian air force has a radar station in Belarus designed to track ballistic missile launches. It also has a naval communications facility which Moscow uses to communicate with its nuclear submarines. Russia's western border, which faces the EU, is heavily militarised.
Moscow has long regarded Belarus as a buffer zone against NATO, according to Western diplomats, who say they believe any move for Belarus to join the European Union or NATO would be a red line for Russia and could prompt it to send in troops.
Reuters has observed busy Russian air traffic between Russia and Belarus since the crisis erupted there on Aug. 9 after a presidential election which protesters said Lukashenko rigged.
A Russian government plane made a quick flight to Belarus and back in the early hours of Wednesday, flight tracking data showed. The plane has been used in the past to carry senior officials, including the head of the FSB security service.
On Aug. 12, two military planes flew to Belarus and a third, a military transport plane, turned off its transponder en route there, according to the tracking data.
Western diplomats say they cannot envisage Russia surrendering its influence over Belarus.
Via Belarus, it has access to the so-called Suwalki Gap, a strip of land which separates Poland from Lithuania. On the opposite side of that gap lies the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
In the event of conflict with NATO, Russia could in theory cut off the Baltic states from the rest of the Western military alliance by seizing the gap. That, say the diplomats, is a strategic prize Moscow is unlikely to relinquish anytime soon.

Clic here to read the story from its source.