Understanding Belarus: Is it Putin's accomplice or a victim?

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other pro democracy protesters have accused President Alexandar Lukashenko of becoming a puppet government of Russia. 
Pro democracy protestors holding a silent peace protest against the Ukraine war in Minsk, Belarus and completely disassociating from their President Alexandar Lukashenko's actions of aiding Russia in the war. 
Pro democracy protestors holding a silent peace protest against the Ukraine war in Minsk, Belarus and completely disassociating from their President Alexandar Lukashenko's actions of aiding Russia in the war. 
Published on Mar 31, 2022 02:50 PM IST
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ByVertika Kanaujia

“While the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine, Russia quietly stages a de facto occupation of Belarus. Troops to stay indefinitely and oversee constitutional referendum,” Arkady Ostrovsky, The Economist, Russia Editor had tweeted on February 21, 2022.

“What we see in Belarus today can be defined as the beginning of the military occupation. Russian forces use Belarus territory in the campaign against Ukraine. There are no signs that troops plan to leave soon…,” Franak Viačorka, Senior Advisor to exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted on the same day.

Russia’s military build-up in Belarus had started in January, 2022, changing the security landscape in the region by giving Putin a vantage point to control both sides of the ‘Suwalki gap,’ the relatively narrow (100km) strip linking Baltics to the rest of EU & NATO. It is being alleged that Europe’s last dictator, Belarus President, Alexandar Lukashenko, capitulated to his nation for his greed to remain in power, even if it meant capitalising on Putin’s objective to make his land Russia’s satellite state.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends the "Allied Resolve" military exercises held by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at the Osipovichsky training ground in the Mogilev region, Belarus, February 17, 2022.(Twitter)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends the "Allied Resolve" military exercises held by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at the Osipovichsky training ground in the Mogilev region, Belarus, February 17, 2022.(Twitter)

Belarus’ exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is currently leading the country's anti-war movement by travelling around Europe to mobilise support and make the world leaders accept that Belarus is under a de-facto Russian occupation. In meetings with world leaders she is spreading a clear message, Belaruseans are against the Ukraine war, a country they have always shared a friendly bond and strong trade ties.

“Not only the fate of Ukraine is being decided right now, but also the fate of Belarus and it is important for us that Belarus is on the right side of history,” Sviatlana stated in a video message.

Belarusean women, dressed in the colours representing their sovereign flag, holding sunflowers and placard in support of Ukraine.  
Belarusean women, dressed in the colours representing their sovereign flag, holding sunflowers and placard in support of Ukraine.  

Chatam House, an international think tank, recently released a report, where 67% of Belaruseans voted against the troops of the Russian Federation shelling Ukraine from their territory and only 28% agreed that their country should support Russia’s actions.

“Kyiv is being bombed and we realised this is probably the only such real chance — the last chance — to win back Belarus, protect Ukraine and actually make this world a better place,” Konstantin Suschik, 31-year-old Belarusian dissident who is now fighting to defend Ukraine told The New York Times.

Belarusian officers have created a new military unit to help the Ukrainians. Regiment “Pahonia” is an official part of the International Legion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Besides helping Ukraine, the regiment also aims to set a base for the new professional Belarusian army.(Twitter)
Belarusian officers have created a new military unit to help the Ukrainians. Regiment “Pahonia” is an official part of the International Legion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Besides helping Ukraine, the regiment also aims to set a base for the new professional Belarusian army.(Twitter)

“After the fraudulent elections of 2020 and mass repressions inside of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenka found himself with the only one foreign ally left, and this ally was Russia. After that, he started to exchange sovereignty of Belarus for money and political support from Moscow,” Lev Lvovskiy, Research Fellow at Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC) told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.

Thousands protested against President Aleksander Lukashenka's regime taking power in 2020 after fraudulently winning the Belarus elections. 
Thousands protested against President Aleksander Lukashenka's regime taking power in 2020 after fraudulently winning the Belarus elections. 

Most of the world powers acknowledged that Lukashenka lost to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in 2020. His deceptive victory was downright rejected by the Belarusians, leading to mass rebellion, with thousands on streets for months seeking Lukashenka’s ouster. Instead with Russia’s help he only became bigger and the movement collapsed in a wave of repression.

“We have thousands of political prisoners. All those who voted against Lukashenka in 2020 were either imprisoned or forced to leave the country. Today, you can be arrested for the colour of your socks. Recently, a women was arrested because she was holding yellow and blue flowers.Mothers of soldiers, in exile, were arrested as they prayed for peace. Foreign media isn’t allowed in the country, there is no freedom of speech or privacy. All this is nothing less than living in a concentration camp,” a Belarus resident confided in Hindustan Times, with a promise of anonymity.

The UN had confirmed cases of rape of men and women in prisons in Belarus prison during the 2020 protests. Thousands of political prisoners who had voted against Aleksander Lukashenka have been either arrested or imprisoned.
The UN had confirmed cases of rape of men and women in prisons in Belarus prison during the 2020 protests. Thousands of political prisoners who had voted against Aleksander Lukashenka have been either arrested or imprisoned.

Now, after becoming an accomplice in Putin’s war Belarus has been ostracised by the West and NATO, facing several sanctions, bundled with social and economic impact. “If in the future International Court of Justice considers Belarus as an accomplice it will have great consequences for the country. But if the world accepts Belarus as a victim rather than an aggressor then things may change,” Arseny Sivitsk told Belarusian news site Zerkalo.

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