South Asia and Beyond

Russia Unlikely To Take Drastic Steps In Belarus, India Cautious To Comment: Ex-Indian Envoy Suresh Babu

NEW DELHI: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin has “assured him of help in bringing back security,” in the event of an external military threat but Moscow “is not in a hurry to take any drastic steps,” India’s Former Chargé d’affaires Dr T Suresh Babu says. Speaking to StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, the ex-envoy to Armenia, Georgia and Mongolia notes that the head of state for 26 years has already indicated compromise by offering to give up some of his powers following massive protests on the streets of Belarus. The President has also proposed fresh elections after a nationwide referendum to change the constitution. A disputed August 9 election saw Lukashenko officially winning with over 80 per cent of the vote, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fleeing to neighbouring Lithuania, over 7,000 arrests, 2 deaths and reports of beatings and torture of protesters. Sunday also saw two rival rallies where officially President Alexander Lukashenko addressed 65,000 people (unofficial estimates put it as low as 10,000). Unofficial estimates for the opposition gathering range between 100,000 and 220,000. Today, the President was heckled even as he spoke in one of his core constituencies, a tractor factory. 37-year-old english translator opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who stepped into the polls after her blogger husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, one of the original candidates was detained on charges of attacking a police officer, has suggested she could act as an interim leader till free and fair fresh elections. Strikes at state-run factories have spread to the government TV station as well. At Least two ambassadors have sided with the protestors and a number of officials, including police officers, have resigned. The U.S. and UK and the Baltic countries have condemned the ‘rigged’ elections while the EU is preparing fresh sanctions.

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Belarus is sandwiched between Russia and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has survived on energy subsidies from the Kremlin, even while denying President Putin’s calls for closer political and economic integration. While Moscow “doesn’t want the situation to go out of hand,” Ambassador Suresh Babu feels Russia “will try and broker some deal between the two sides,” even though Lukashenko is hinting at “intervention by Russia, in accordance with one of the articles within the Collective Security Treaty Organization(CSTO)-a Russia-led military alliance of 7 former Soviet states.” India, the Ambassador says, is “watching the evolving situation” and is unlikely to “comment on what Russia is doing within its own periphery.”

Amitabh P. Revi

Russian language speaker and conflict journalist. Amitabh Revi has been there, done that—from the battlefields of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to sublime Russia, Australia and the United States. Along the way he's picked up the Dag Hammarskjöld Distinguished Journalist Fellowship, the Ramnath Goenka award for coverage of the Iraq War and RT's Khaled Alkhateb Award for his reporting from Palmyra, Syria.