Solidarity with Ukraine reduces opposition’s influence on population
On March 25th, the opposition celebrated yet another anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic, which was also marked by the solidarity with Ukraine and condemnation of Russian aggression.
The authorities have demonstrated loyalty to the organisers and the demonstration participants and have not exacerbated the situation. In addition, the demonstration has attracted slightly more participants than the organisers have anticipated – mainly due to those inspired by the events in Ukraine. Meanwhile, focus on Ukraine significantly reduces the Belarusian opposition’s opportunities to convey their messages to the population, the majority of which condemns the unrests in Ukraine after the Maidan.
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.