Yearn for Something Different

Russia and Changes in Belarus

5 August 2020

Russian policy often operates on a short-term, flexible basis. The initial goal may be to ensure that whatever his foibles, Lukashenko survives in 2020, and there is no Maidan style change of power in Belarus. The future is less certain because the campaign of Tsikhanouskaya has demonstrated convincingly that Belarusians want a change.

Though the 2020 election campaign has witnessed a complete change in the political landscape of Belarus, with mass crowds embracing a neophyte presidential candidate in Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, there is no mechanism in place for a legitimate change of power, despite a growing rift in the political elite that prompted establishment figures like Viktar Babaryka and Valer Tsapkala to attempt to challenge him.

The nature of the challengers prompted fears in the Diaspora that the new opposition figures were part of a Russian plot to remove Lukashenko and install their own candidate. Babaryka’s ties with Russia’s Gazprom Bank were the most obvious. Was he part of Russia’s plan to take over Belarus?

Too popular to be permitted to run

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

In fact, there is very little evidence that any of the candidates were unpatriotic or had ties to Russia that might undermine their loyalty to the Belarusian state. On the other hand, to have attained such eminent positions prior to the election likely required some Machiavellian manoeuvres.

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David Marples

A historian and Distinguished University Professor at the Department of History & Classics, University of Alberta as well as an expert at iSANS - the International Strategic Action Network for Security.

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