As protests continue in Belarus, embattled President Lukashenko fails to grasp ‘seriousness’ of situation – Moscow expert

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© AP Photo/Sergei Grits; inset © REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Belarus on the brink? Unloved in Moscow, a pariah again in the West & facing protests at home, Lukashenko is running out of road

“I think Naryshkin visited Minsk for a reason. Clearly, he was told to explain the real situation to Alexander Grigorievich [Lukashenko] in private – the situation where he is, and which he clearly underestimates,” Zharikhin said. “Lukashenko does not fully realize the seriousness of the situation and the seriousness of internal impulses for mass protests.”

According to Zharikhin, Russian representatives haven’t shied away from criticising the Belarusian government’s response to the protests that have paralysed the country since the disputed presidential election in August. “Belarusian authorities made mistakes, and created this crisis situation with their own hands,” he added. “The statements that the Poles and the Lithuanians have invented it are unjust. There were serious problems, which Russian authorities have pointed out.”

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Russia’s CIS Institute is an influential independent foreign policy think tank, focusing on the countries of the former Soviet Union. It enjoys close relations with senior diplomats and political leaders in Moscow, and Naryshkin himself has often been seen as an important bellwether of Russia’s foreign affairs thinking.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also moved to distance his country from the decision to list Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on an international list of persons of interest, this week. Speaking to the Russia’s Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday, he said that “the move to put Tikhanovskaya on the wanted list was a solely judicial matter. It is about Russia’s obligations under the CIS treaty.”

Despite attempts at suppression, protests in Belarus are ongoing, with police making more than 200 arrests on Sunday, as well as allegedly using stun grenades and firing warning shots at protestors.

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