U.S. Says Kremlin Risks Turning Belarusian People Against Russia By Backing Lukashenka

September 11, 2020 15:56 GMT UPDATED September 11, 2020 18:01 GMT – By RFE/RL’s Belarus Service

WASHINGTON — U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has said Russia risks losing the friendship of the Belarusian people if the Kremlin continues to back authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Biegun made the comments on September 11 as Lukashenka faces the biggest challenge to his 26-year rule amid nationwide protests against the results of the August 9 presidential election that handed him a sixth five-year term.

The Belarusian people have called on Lukashenka to step down and hold free and fair elections, claiming the August 9 vote was rigged in his favor. The 66-year-old Belarusian leader has responded to the peaceful protests with violent arrests and torture.

His actions have not only emboldened the opposition, they have alienated Western governments, forcing Lukashenka to look to the Kremlin for support as he seeks to cling to power.

Lukashenka will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 14 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, their first face-to-face meeting since the election. However, Lukashenka has spoken with Putin several times by phone since August 9.

Meanwhile, Belarusian Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich said she feared her country could lose its independence amid the political strife and called on Russian intellectuals for support.

Speaking to journalists during a conference call, Biegun said most Belarusians “have seen Russia as the country closest to their hearts and we respect that sentiment and sovereign choice. It thus eludes us how Moscow could back such a regime and such violence against peaceful citizens, exercising constitutionally protected rights to freedom of assembly, association, and speech.”

The senior U.S. diplomat said that if the Russian leadership “continues down this path, it risks turning the Belarusian people — who have no grievance with Russia — against Moscow.”

In Minsk, Alexievich seemed to echo that notion by lamenting that Russian intellectuals haven’t spoken out against Lukashenka’s actions.

“Why aren’t you helping my little nation maintain its dignity and statehood?” she said, addressing Russians.

The two leaders have spoken several times by phone since August 9 with Putin promising military assistance under a bilateral military pact, including a police force. The Sochi meeting comes amid a years-long push by Putin for a Union state with Belarus, raising concern that a weakened Lukashenka could bow to the Russian leaders demands.

“There is a danger that we could lose our country,” Alexievich said. Biegun said it was “disturbing to see increasing signs of overt Russian support” for the embattled dictator, but he declined to say if the United States would take any action, such as imposing more sanctions on Moscow, to oppose it.

Biegun pointed out that Russians citizens have also been swept up by Belarusian police as part of the crackdown against protesters and “subject to the same brutal violence.”

The U.S. deputy secretary of state said he hoped that Putin would express concern about the violence against Belarusian and Russian citizens committed by Lukashenka’s government and the need for the strongman to step down.

“We hope the message from Moscow is that the ruler needs to give way to the will of his people,” Biegun said of the September 14 meeting.

He said the United States is working with its European allies, Moscow and Belarus to “generate a proposal that offers a way out” for Lukashenka. The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia issued a joint statement on September 14 saying Belarus should hold new presidential elections to resolve the standoff.

Biegun called on Lukashenka to hold talks with the Coordination Council that was set up by opposition leaders following the election to facilitate a transfer of power, saying the strongman had been “rejected by his own people.”

He said U.S. support for such talks “does not mean we’re asking Belarus to choose between East and West.”

Alexievich, who is one of the seven members of the Coordination Council’s presidium, warned that if Lukashenka doesn’t negotiate, the problems will fester and “we will get nothing but a civil war.”

In the meantime, Biegun said the United States and its European allies will not let Lukashenka’s actions go unpunished.

The West is coordinating on sanctions against officials in Belarus responsible for election falsification as well as the beatings and detentions, according to the U.S. deputy secretary of state, who said he expected the U.S. sanctions list to be finalized “in just a few short days.”

He said the West will avoid sanctions, at this stage, that impact companies and the economy.

“We do not also want to impose on the citizens of Belarus any additional punitive measures unless absolutely necessary and supportive of the goals we are seeking in Belarus,” he said.

EU countries have also called for a debate and resolution on Belarus at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for next week.

4 comments

  • англійський масон

    Shut the fuck up America.

    Thats what we want!

    Liked by 1 person

  • In July, the tightly controlled public vote on the package of amendments to the Constitution, designed to ensure Mr. Putin’s continuing grasp on power through the next decade, had to be crudely falsified in order to show strong support. Despite an official turnout of 78 percent, with 68 percent voting for the constitutional reforms (mathematically an absolute majority of the electorate), in reality only an estimated 60 percent bothered to participate, and 60 percent of them voted “as ordered” (Levada.ru, August 7).

    Liked by 3 people

  • “U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has said Russia risks losing the friendship of the Belarusian people if the Kremlin continues to back authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.”

    When, in the history of this crime syndicate, have these mobsters ever given a rat’s ass what the people think? In particular, people outside of the shithole.

    Liked by 4 people

  • As if Putin would not know this. Point is, he doesn’t give a shit.

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.