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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.