Wagner Head Cannot Trust Lukashenko, Says Belarus Opposition Chief

Himalaya Times
Read Time = 3 mins

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko could betray Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, despite offering him refuge after his aborted mutiny, exiled Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said.

"They're not allies. They cannot trust each other," Tikhanovskaya told AFP in an interview in Brussels on Wednesday.

"At any moment Lukashenko can betray Prigozhin, Prigozhin can betray Lukashenko."

Lukashenko on Tuesday said Prigozhin had jetted into Belarus under a deal he mediated to end an armed rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group that posed the greatest challenge yet to Russian President Vladimir Putin's rule.

Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory against Lukashenko in 2020 presidential elections, said much remained unclear about the agreement.

But she insisted the move by Lukashenko to help his top backer Putin was a marriage of convenience aimed at saving his own regime in Belarus.

"He didn't act just to save Putin's face, or to save Prigozhin, or not to let the civil war happen in Russia," she said.

"He took care only about his personal survival because Lukashenko knows that if the powers in Russia are scrambling, it will be Lukashenko who will be next."

The opposition head, whose husband is jailed in Belarus, said if Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters move en mass to Belarus it could menace Europe.

"The presence of Prigozhin himself or Wagner groups on our territory creates a threat to people of Belarus in the first place, and to our independence," she said.

"Moreover, its presence might create threats to Ukraine and also to our western neighbours."

- 'Rapists and murderers' -

Prigozhin, a former Kremlin ally and catering contractor, built Russia's most powerful private army and recruited thousands of prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

Tikhanovskaya decried the portrayal of Lukashenko as a "peacemaker" after he purportedly helped to resolve the crisis.

She warned he could use Wagner forces to further crack down on any dissent after a brutal campaign of repression since the disputed 2020 vote.

"This is the person who has brought rapists and murderers on our land," Tikhanovksaya said.

"What will these people do in our country? That's the huge question. How they will behave."

- 'Lack of attention' -

Tikhanovskaya criticised a "lack of attention" by the West to the situation in Belarus as the country has fallen increasingly under Moscow's sway after Putin propped up Lukhashenko.

She said the failure by the international community to react strongly to Russia moving nuclear weapons to Belarus emboldened Moscow and Minsk.

"We are still waiting for response on deployment of nuclear weapons on our territory," she said.

"When the world keeps silent about such a significant moment it is perceived by the dictators as weakness."

It has been over one year since the European Union last slapped sanctions on the Belarusian regime over its role helping Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The bloc had previously hit Minsk with repeated rounds of sanctions over the crackdown for its brutal suppression of protests.

EU member states have been haggling over new measures for months but have been unable to agree on them.

Tikhanovksaya said the arrival of Wagner in Belarus could provide new impetus for further punitive measures against the regime.

"Now criminals are welcomed by Lukashenko," she said.

"New sanctions, for example, might be imposed, sanctions against those who allowed this to happen."

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

In case you missed it