In the past several weeks, official Minsk has dramatically changed its tone. For the first time since Feb.24 when Russia launched an all-out war in Ukraine, Belarus sent multiple signals that significantly differ from the ones spewed out by Russia.
For Ukraine, such a change of tune creates a window of opportunity. Yet, it also poses challenges as Kyiv must now figure out how to go about it, argues European Pravda’s editor Yuriy Panchenko in his article New Signals from Lukashenko: How Belarus is Trying to Escape Responsibility for the War.
Russia’s failure to carry out a blitzkrieg in Ukraine alongside an unsuccessful attempt to seize Kyiv has forced Lukashenko to reconsider his options. Moscow’s interest in Belarus, except for using it as a platform for bombing Ukraine is slowly decreasing, meaning Minsk’s chances of receiving reimbursements from Russia for Western sanctions’ the ramifications are becoming low.
Recently, it became known that the Belarussian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei sent out letters to his European colleagues, with Minsk offering to commence negotiations on the gradual relaxation of Western sanctions.
However, these letters are not the only signal that Lukashenko is sending to the West. In fact, there are four of them in total.
First, in March, the authorities released Anzhelika Borus, the head of the Polish Union in Belarus that Warsaw had been vehemently protecting, from jail. She is now under house arrest.
Second, the State Border Committee of Belarus announced that citizens of Latvia and Lithuania are allowed to enter the country without a visa between April 15 and May 15.
Third, the media disclosed that the migration center, where the 2021 migration crisis unraveled and which Lukashenko used to blackmail the West, is now almost empty.
So, do four signals suffice to claim that Belarus’s change of heart is deliberate? Most likely, especially since Lukashenko does not have any options but to reconcile with the West.
Furthermore, Minsk is sending signals to Kyiv as well. In its recent list of “unfriendly countries”, Minsk, unlike Russia, does not mention Ukraine.
Although both Kyiv and the EU effectively ignored Belarus’s signals, Ukraine’s move is playing into the hands of Minsk. After all, if Ukraine is not planning to fully cut off trade with Belarus, then why should the EU do it?
Accordingly, Kyiv must not be silent. Instead, it should become more active in its relations with Minsk.
Read more in Yuriy Panchenko’s article New Signals from Lukashenko: How Belarus is Trying to Avoid Responsibility for the War in Ukraine.