Offset Babich, arrests of senior officials, the contamination of crude oil – events coincided for a reason.

After several months of conflict, the President of Russia recalled its Ambassador in Belarus. At Ambassador Mikhail Babich, a former KGB officer, allowed himself to make statements that annoyed Alexander Lukashenko. The foreign Ministry of Belarus accused the diplomat that he refers to Belarus as Russia and not as an independent state.

The appointment of Babich, who is considered envoys of Putin, was seen as an ominous signal for Belarus. The closer 2024 when Putin ends the last presidential term, began to talk more and more that Belarus could become a key element of his plans for the future. Since December last year, the Russian government suddenly began to show interest in the forgotten Treaty which the two countries signed in 1999 and under which it is expected to create a Federal state with a single joint leadership. This agreement may allow Putin to remain in power in the state in tandem and not break the Russian Constitution.

Foreign Policy discussed the situation with Andrei Sannikov, a coordinator of the civil campaign “European Belarus”. In 2010, he was a rival of Lukashenka in the elections, then spent 16 months in prison for political considered charges. He now lives in exile in Warsaw.

– Do you think that Lukashenka will agree to join the Union, because it would mean for him a loss of power?

Anything is possible, it’s his brainchild. If not Lukashenko, there would be no such relations with Russia and would not have such agreements. You might remember why these agreements were signed. At that time, Lukashenko himself wanted to be President of the Union state.

Lukashenko began his reign with the destruction of the Belarusian identity and continues in the same spirit. Destroying our language, culture, history, parts of it sells Belarus Russia. At some point he will be in a desperate position to make a deal with Putin. He will never defend the independence of Belarus. It for him there. To protect his regime, Yes. His personal power, Yes, but not the country.

– And how, in your opinion, should the West treat Belarus, for Lukashenko?

– The West should understand the importance of Belarus from the point of view of security. Not even the protection of human rights, not democracy, and security. Military dimension of security. The West simply needs to recognize how important the processes taking place in our region. Cannot be considered to be Lukashenka’s “lesser evil” and use it against Putin. Evil it is evil. And the evil we must fight, defending the principles, its principles and values, and helping Ukraine. And without independent Belarus, Ukraine will remain vulnerable.

– Lukashenko is nervous?

– Of course. Indicative in this respect unprecedented criticism Babich Belarusian foreign Ministry. It was with the consent, even at the direction of the President.

– It is reported that Babic withdrew.

– Perhaps Putin does not wish further public conflict. In any case, his plan does not change. And he definitely has plans for Belarus.

– They do not want to endure the conflict to the public because until 2024 is still far away, and by that time they will be able to find a better way to solve the problem of extending the powers of Putin?

Maybe. Regarding Belarus, it has several options, and not theoretical, and tested, starting with Georgia. The annexation of Georgian lands, Crimea, Ukraine. The Ukrainians say that Russia is preparing a new aggression.

– How belonged to Babich, when he was appointed last year? It’s considered envoys of Putin.

– Yes, of course. It is known for the fact that it did not want to deal with. Early in his career he worked with Akhmad Kadyrov (former ruler of Chechnya), who was dissatisfied and asked Putin to replace Babich. Wanted to appoint him Ambassador to Ukraine, but the Ukrainians have not agreed, and he was sent to Belarus.

I think it is no coincidence coincided with some recent significant events. Offset Babich, arrests of senior officials (in late April was arrested the former head of the security service of Lukashenko), contamination of oil, which is supplied to Poland, Ukraine and Europe. Something is being prepared. I think the situation should be watched closely. Dmitry Mezentsev (the new Ambassador of Russia in Belarus) is an information technology specialist. In Russia, the information technology specialist means a specialist in disinformation and propaganda. So I think that both the Ambassador – two components of a single plan.

– How does the Russian disinformation in Belarus?

Russian media dominate the information space of Belarus. Lukashenka’s propaganda and in General the TV is low quality, and people watch Russian programs. That’s why more than 60% of Belarusians support the annexation of Crimea. Russia is easy to work in Belarus. In the production and distribution of disinformation Russia is investing billions of dollars. Vulnerability of Belarus before this thread is obvious. The danger of the situation lies in the fact that Belarusians do not see a way out: they hate Lukashenko, I prefer Putin; the role of the West in General is not seen, but the opposition does not have access to mass media.

– How belong to Lukashenko in Belarus?

In Belarus hate him. In Belarus, Putin is more popular than Lukashenko. This is a dangerous situation, because if they want to organize some kind of referendum and to compare these two rulers, two dictators, Putin will bypass Lukashenko. The system in Belarus is Lukashenko himself. In Russia, a little harder. In Russia, in my opinion, some people support the system that creates Putin. In Belarus, things are different. In Belarus to the system of concern and fear, and with a laugh. People laugh at Lukashenko, but somewhere, and I’m afraid that their attitude will become known to the authorities.

– Do you plan to re-nominate his candidacy in the presidential election?

– If we have elections.

– You mean fair elections?

– Of course, at the same time the West can help us achieve free and fair elections. Changes in our region a where are preserved the institution of elections – Armenia, Ukraine, etc. In Russia and Belarus, the Institute was destroyed. Ideally, the strategy of the West should aim to help us to organize free elections.

– And Western institutions help you in your work?

– No. We help deprived, for two reasons. First: the events took place in Ukraine, and it has shifted attention and resources. It is clear, but unexplained, because you have to try to solve the problems of the entire region, not just to react to events in the region. Second: Europe has changed its attitude to Lukashenko’s regime, lifted the sanctions. Ignoring violations of human rights, the Europeans prefer to deal with the Lukashenko regime, with a dummy non-governmental organizations and with the fake politicians. I mean, what assistance do not receive much-needed segments of society, such as political opposition, independent press, independent trade unions, human rights defenders, civil society.

Amy MacKinnon, Foreign Policy,