Nov. 29, 2022
Alexander Lukashenko, an erstwhile ally of Vladimir Putin, who has served as Belarus’s sole president since 1994, reportedly fears for his safety and believes he will be assassinated by Moscow, according to unconfirmed reports from sources close to Russia’s military leadership.
Some Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels reported on Monday, Nov. 28 that Lukashenko allegedly ordered that his cooks, guards and servants be replaced to protect himself, after shocking reports claim that Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, who died on Nov. 26, was poisoned in a sting operation by the Russian government.
Unverified reports state that Makei was assassinated after Moscow discovered that he was covertly in contact with the West regarding the war in Ukraine, and was attempting to prevent Putin from further integrating Belarus into Russia.
Some of the most notable claims, which are still unsubstantiated, are made by Russian businessman and exiled Putin critic Leonid Nevzlin.
UK tabloids The Daily Mail and The Sun have both issued reports in line with statements from Nevzlin, who claims that Makei died as a result of a poison developed in a special laboratory run by the FSB, an arm of Russia’s secret services. Nevzlin has also said his sources were “close to the Russian special services”.
“The death of Makei, essentially the second [most important] man in the state, has caused panic in Belarusian nomenklatura circles”, he said.
Nevzlin asserted that 64-year-old Makei had no health issues, lived an active lifestyle, and was planning ahead, which supports the theory that he may well have been poisoned.
He claims that Lukashenko has been left “shaken” by the alleged assassination of Makei, and is now concerned for his own safety. “But dictator Lukashenko is the most shaken. He has ordered the replacement of his cooks, servants and guards”.
“Lukashenko’s children have been given extra security. The dictator does not trust anyone.”
Nevzlin arrived at the conclusion that Lukashenko is afraid that Putin, his alleged ally, is planning “a magnificent funeral” for him.
Some political experts, such as George Byczynski, the Chief Adviser to the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland, support the theory that Makei may well have been poisoned as a warning sign to Lukashenko. “He is behind numerous international assassinations and this may be another one,” he told Kyiv Post.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been rather unsuccessful so far, because of the brave Ukrainian spirit, as well as help from Poland, UK and other nations,” he noted.
“We can only speculate, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that even the most loyal and dependent partners of Putin see that he’s losing and may want to switch sides. Just like Stalin eliminated everyone who didn’t fully obey him, Putin is likely to send signals to Lukashenko – neutrality means death” Byczynski added.
Other experts also argue that such speculation might be completely false.
Dr. Michael Francis, a social scientist who specialises in politics and international relations, economic history, and socioeconomic development, believes there is little evidence to support these claims.
“Belarus is very pro-Russia with strong links and connections. I would put this up as an attempt at anti-Belarussian and anti-Russia propaganda.”
He continued by saying: “I do not doubt that there are people and forces in Belarus that would be happy to see Alexander Lukashenko go, dead or otherwise, but would not think they are the current Russian government.”
Francis argued that any threat to Belarus’s leadership would likely originate from within.
“I can see no reason for a split between the two countries or a reason for Russia to sabotage that relationship through the use of poison. If Russia were to destroy that relationship it would destroy the relationship between allies and not further any military or political aim,” he said, summing up.
Byczynski agrees, adding: “The implications of Putin killing Lukashenko could be catastrophic for Putin. He would have it very difficult to install a new puppet regime, all the Belarussians would turn against them.”