As Belarus and its strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko continue to come under the West’s scrutiny and condemnation, most recently related to Olympic scandal involving attempts to force Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to board a home-bound plane, Lukashenko has made somewhat unusual comments proposing an economic and political union with Russia.
Russia’s TASS reports that he’s floated the idea of deeper “integration” and “inter-state” union with the much larger Russian Federation. “Minsk is not opposed to integration with Russia within the Union State but this move must not imply any loss of the republic’s statehood and sovereignty, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday,” TASS wrote of his words Monday. The reference was to deepening integration based on the so-called “Union State of Russia and Belarus” agreement struck in 1999.
“When we speak about integration, we must clearly understand that this means integration without any loss of statehood and sovereignty,” the Belarusian president told a meeting of officials while surrounded by the press. “We have never opposed the closest union but we have always been kept at bay and now you [Russia] are keeping us at a distance,” he added.
Specifically he was addressing what he called recent “hints that integration is seen as Belarus’s incorporation into Russia.”
The provocative comments came the same day that Britain slapped fresh economic sanctions on the former Soviet satellite state for “the continued undermining of democracy and human rights violations,” with the UK government rolling out “trade measures on potash, petroleum products, interception and monitoring goods and technology, goods used in cigarette manufacturing, and dual-use goods and technology,” according to a UK government statement.
The sanctions are said to be the continued result of the August 2020 disputed election and anti-protest crackdown which extended Lukashenko’s already 26-year rule.
In the Monday comments Lukashenko still acknowledged the immense barriers that remain when it comes to such a union with Russia: “Any union rests on equal conditions and equality. This means equality for people, which we have largely achieved. This is a big achievement credited to both Russians and Belarusians. But how can we integrate if the price of your natural gas is two-or three-times lower than in Belarus?” he mused.