Belarus has opened up to the West for the first time in 10 years, among increasing pressure from Russia to deepen integration. But talks on deeper integration weren’t taken well by the Belarusian people, with protesters taking to the streets in Minsk. Hromadske spoke to Belarusian journalist Franak Viačorka to get a clearer picture of the main development in Belarus in 2019.
Franak, there were thousands of people protesting in Belarus, against further integration with Russia. In this highlight of the year, we want to hear about the major events in Belarus, where it’s all leading to, and what to expect for 2020.
So in 2019 Belarus opened diplomacy with the United States, the first in over 10 years. We didn’t have a US embassy or a US ambassador present in Minsk. So this year was kind of the year of opening the West. But at the same time Russia was tightening its control over the Belarus economy, the energy sphere, and of course the political and military sphere. So what do we expect? We expect the next round of negotiations and trade on major Belarusian companies and industries, because it seems like Putin and Kremlin doesn’t want Lukashenko and Belarus to go to the West. So Lukashenko is trying to play his own card, the defender of independence, but so far, not so successfully.
So what can we expect in 2020? I understand you also having elections.
So we had parliamentary elections. Sterile results. No opposition politicians in parliament. Lukashenko is very afraid of any alternative in the government, in elites. In 2020 we expect presidential elections. Some opposition candidates have announced their campaigns, but it seems he doesn’t have alternatives. Neither does it seem that he’s going to leave. So basically what he wants – he wants the status quo. He wants to preserve the same swing policy between the West and Moscow. He wants to get cheap energy, oil and gas from Russia, at the same time to sustain the trade and strategy of opening to the West in order to preserve control and some alternatives and some jokers in his hands to play against Putin.
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