Moscow assesses Lukashenka policies as high risk and insists upon progress with constitutional reforms
By Anatol Pankouski
Lavrov’s visit to Minsk last week was interpreted by most observers as an attempt to get Lukashenka back on track with constitutional reforms. Lukashenka, however, pins his hopes on ‘brotherly’ assistance from the Kremlin, both for the economy and for countering external forces and the opposition.
On November 26, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov met in Minsk with his Belarusian counterpart Makei and with Lukashenka. They discussed the situation in the country and the world. Lavrov also conveyed “greetings” from Vladimir Putin to Lukashenka and recalled the agreements reached in Sochi on September 14.
Sergei Lavrov emphasized two fundamental issues: (a) the urgency of constitutional reforms in Belarus; and (b) further integration within the Union State. Lukashenka, on his part, invited Russia to step up allied relations.
The following day, when visiting a hospital in Minsk, Lukashenka revisited the subject of constitutional reforms. His comments are quoted verbatim due to opposing interpretations by Belarusian commentators:
“I don’t draft a Constitution for myself. I will not work with you as president under the new Constitution. So, take it easy, bear it calmly. And I will never allow that, when adopting a new Constitution, someone would falsify the adoption of the new Constitution, or that someone fabricated the elections under the new Constitution.”
Many commentators have interpreted this to mean that Lukashenka is indeed preparing imminent constitutional reforms and noted that he acknowledged for the first time that he would not be elected under the new Constitution. Others believe that Lukashenka neither wants nor can carry out constitutional reform and that he has no intention of relinquishing the presidency before 2025 at the earliest.