Lukashenko tires to be a mediator in the Russo-Ukrainian dispute
On April 29th, BelaPAN News Agency published an interview with Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov.
Russia is highly interested in Ukraine’s integration with the Eurasian Economic Union. President Lukashenko hopes to play a mediating role in this process and to improve his status in negotiations with the Kremlin.
In terms of regional policies, Ambassador Surikov’s the most important statement was his concern about the security of gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transportation system, as well as certain recognition of the hopelessness of the Moscow-Kiev situation.
In particular, the Ambassador said that “both, the trilateral relations (Europe-Ukraine-Russia), and bilateral (Russia-Ukraine) failed to solve the issue of renovation and putting in order the Ukrainian gas transportation system”. According to Surikov, it was one of the main reasons behind the construction of the Yamal-Europe-2 gas pipeline project.
Regardless of the genuine reasons for the Kremlin’s interest in the Yamal-Europe – 2 project, Surikov’s justification creates environment for the Belarusian leadership to intervene in Russo-Ukrainian negotiations and try to persuade President Yanukovych to participate in the Eurasian integration project.
If Lukashenko’s adventurous mission fails, he can still try to keep up appearances and present it as an attempt to partially restore the USSR’s lost integrity and to complement the author of the CES project, Vladimir Putin. In addition, the noble ‘integration’ mission will enable Lukashenko to gloss over (and ideally, to benefit from) the existing conflicts between him and President Yanukovych.
Potentially, Lukashenko’s mission might be successful. On April 15th, in a telephone conversation Presidents Lukashenko and Viktor Yanukovych discussed the possibility of the creation of a Belarusian-Ukrainian-Russian public movement and agreed to raise this issue at the upcoming bilateral meeting in May. On April 25th, in Kiev, close to Lukashenko Chairman of the Communist Party of Belarus Karpenko took part in the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of the Union of Communist Parties of the former Soviet countries.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.