Russia hosts Belarus official with Lukashenko out of view
The foreign minister of Belarus begins a three-day visit to Moscow on Monday amid speculation about the whereabouts of the country’s long-serving President Alexander Lukashenko.
The Belarusian leader hasn’t been seen in public since attending a World War II Victory Day celebration in Minsk on May 9, where he stared silently as his defense minister delivered an address.
Lukashenko, 68, arrived at the event from Moscow, where he appeared frail as he joined Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Red Square military parade marking the end of the war.
He failed to make an appearance at an annual ceremony for the state flag and other national symbols held in the Belarusian capital on Sunday. Instead, Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko read out a message from the president, without explaining Lukashenko’s absence.
Russia announced the visit of Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik on May 10, saying he’s expected to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and the speakers of both houses of parliament.
Aleinik was named foreign minister three weeks after his predecessor Vladimir Makei, who’d held the post for a decade, died suddenly in November aged 64.
Neither Lukashenko’s press service nor state-owned media have commented on his absence so far, while opposition groups on social media claimed he may be receiving medical treatment.
The former Soviet collective farm manager, who has held power in Belarus for three decades, crushed pro-democracy protests following 2020 elections that opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya claimed she won. The US and the European Union refused to recognize the results and backed Tsikhanouskaya, who’s in exile abroad.
Lukashenko has been instrumental in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and has supported his ally during repeated visits to Russia since the war began in February last year. He allowed Russia’s military to launch its invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory and has provided logistical support for Russian troops, while refusing to allow his own army to take part in the war.
Critics have accused Lukashenko of ceding sovereignty to the Kremlin by allowing Russian forces to operate on Belarusian soil against Ukraine. After backing Lukashenko against US and EU condemnation of the 2020 crackdown on protesters, Putin has drawn Belarus more tightly into Russia’s orbit as part of a long-established Union State between the two republics.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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