Belarus dictator’s health woes spark succession talk
In Belarus speculation continues over the health of President Alexander Lukashenko with the media saying Russian doctors have treated him in Minsk.
A photoshoot this week showed the dictator in military uniform and with a bandaged arm.
In the 2020 general election, opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who stood in for her husband, Siarhei – who was jailed – was widely believed to have won. Amid a crackdown, Tsikhanouskaya fled into exile with her two children to Lithuania where she runs a Belarusian government-in-exile.
Tsikhanouskaya said this week: “There are many rumours about the dictator Lukashenko’s health. For us, it means only one thing – we should be well prepared for every scenario. to turn Belarus on the path to democracy and to prevent Russia from interfering. We need the international community to be proactive and fast.”
But the Belarusian opposition has little leverage on the situation.
Heavy state repression has meant that calls from the exiled opposition to take to protest have long been ignored, as in February last year when only small protests condemned the Ukraine invasion.
If Lukashenko were to die, his regime appears likely to remain united, according to Político. And Putin will be determined to exert continued control over his close ally.
The Minsk regime might try as a Lukashenko successor to pick Natalya Kochanova — head of the Belarusian upper chamber — who has called him “a wise and experienced politician”, pledging loyalty “for the rest of her life.”
Lukashenko called her “almost a ready-made president” in 2020.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said the Belarusian military and security services are “completely oriented toward Moscow”.
In Moldova, in a pro-European move, the impoverished republic announced that its parliamentary business would be conducted in Romanian, rather than Moldovan. This week it also announced it will quit the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which includes nine of the 15 former federal Soviet republics.
“We can no longer remain at one table with an aggressor country”, said Igor Grosu, Moldova’s parliamentary president. He said the CIS was “created by Russia on the ruins of the USSR”.
“The procedure could take several weeks. What could come next? What harm could he do to us?” Grosu asked, in an apparent reference to Putin.
Picture credit: Kremlin