Belarus President Lukashenko Emerges as a Winner in Russia-Wagner Conflict


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Vladimir V. Putin is thought for his tight management over the information media in Russia. His onetime ally, the Wagner army group founder Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, is himself the proprietor of a conservative media outlet and a flamboyant showman on social media.

However it was an unlikely determine who emerged with a public relations victory within the wake of Mr. Prigozhin’s mutiny: the longtime dictator of Belarus, the neighboring nation that’s firmly in Moscow’s orbit.

The Belarusian chief, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, is seen largely because the Kremlin’s docile satrap. However on Sunday, he took credit score for brokering an settlement between Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin, averting a state of affairs that the Russian chief had in comparison with the civil conflict that adopted the Revolution of 1917.

Now Mr. Lukashenko, a global pariah, is attempting to make use of the P.R. victory to burnish his credentials as a reputable statesman, mediator — and above all, loyal ally to Mr. Putin.

Late on Saturday night, as fears had been heightening over a possible conflict between Wagner troops, who had been inside 125 miles of Moscow, and Russian troopers, Mr. Lukashenko’s press service issued an announcement: The Belarusian president had discovered “a completely worthwhile and acceptable possibility for resolving the state of affairs.”

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Prigozhin introduced {that a} column of his fighters that had ridden about 500 miles from southern Russia was turning round and going house.

As a part of the deal, the felony case opened towards Mr. Prigozhin for organizing an armed rebel can be dropped, Wagner troops wouldn’t face fees and Mr. Prigozhin would go away Russia for Belarus, the Kremlin’s spokesman mentioned. His whereabouts on Sunday was not identified.

What, if any, guarantees had been made on behalf of the Kremlin, Wagner or Mr. Lukashenko stay unclear. However Mr. Lukashenko’s state-controlled media shortly switched into excessive gear to painting his efforts to defuse the battle as proof of statesmanship.

The state information company, Belta, reported that on Saturday morning — as Mr. Putin confronted “probably the most acute part of the state of affairs in Russia” — he phoned his Belarusian counterpart in Minsk.

Mr. Putin “was skeptical about the potential for negotiations and doubted whether or not Yevgeny Prigozhin would decide up the telephone, since at the moment he didn’t discuss to anybody,” a Belarusian authorities propagandist, Vadim Gigin, informed pro-Kremlin media on Sunday, in an interview that was coated extensively by Belta.

However Mr. Putin agreed to mediation, and when “the president of Belarus referred to as, Yevgeny Prigozhin instantly picked up the telephone,” mentioned Mr. Gigin, on whom the European Union as soon as imposed sanctions for “supporting and justifying repression towards the democratic opposition and civil society.”

The dialog between Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Prigozhin was “very troublesome,” mentioned Mr. Gigin, who this month turned the director of the Nationwide Library of Belarus. “They instantly blurted out such vulgar issues it might make any mom cry. The dialog was arduous, and as I used to be informed, masculine.”

Although different potential explanations have been superior for why Mr. Prigozhin gave up on his “march for justice” to Moscow, some providing minimal credit score to Mr. Lukashenko, However the Belarusian media machine has been trumpeting his function as an influence dealer, a uncommon function reversal at a time when the dictator has turn into overwhelmingly depending on Russia.

“Putin misplaced as a result of he confirmed how weak his system is, that he could be challenged so simply,” mentioned Pavel Slunkin, a former Belarusian diplomat and analyst on the European Council on Overseas Relations. “Prigozhin challenged, he attacked, he was so daring after which he retreated, trying like a loser. Solely Lukashenko received factors — first within the eyes of Putin, within the eyes of the worldwide neighborhood as a mediator or negotiator, and as a potential guarantor of the deal.”

Mr. Lukashenko has managed to carry onto energy for 29 years, however at a value. He has more and more allowed Belarus to turn into a vassal state of Russia, particularly after getting Moscow’s backing in 2020, when he violently crushed a democracy movement difficult his declare that he had received an election in a landslide,


Depending on Moscow not only for political help but in addition for financial viability, Belarus allowed Mr. Putin to make use of it as a staging floor for his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and as a storage site for Russian tactical nuclear weapons.

Particulars have additionally emerged that Belarus has participated in Russia’s apply of taking youngsters out of Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine and bringing them to so-called summer season camps. The Worldwide Felony Courtroom has issued warrants for Mr. Putin and his youngsters’s rights commissioner, and Ukrainian prosecutors are reviewing proof that youngsters have been introduced to 3 camps in Belarus, together with not less than one belonging to a state-owned firm.

Opposition leaders imagine that Mr. Putin’s ambitions are usually not restricted to Ukrainian territory. Ultimately, they predict, he’ll attempt to strengthen his management over Belarus.

Together with his reported mediation within the Wagner disaster, Mr. Lukashenko could hope to reclaim a few of his quickly eroding sovereignty, and stem Belarusian fears of being swallowed by its bigger neighbor, mentioned Dmitri Avosha, the founding father of the Belarusian web site Tribuna.

“Lukashenko merely did a favor to Putin in its purest kind, and helped himself remedy the issue of occupation,” he mentioned.

It isn’t the primary time Mr. Lukashenko additionally tried to assert the mantle of mediator.

He did so in 2014 and 2015, after an earlier Russian foray into Ukraine, when it launched a clandestine invasion of the japanese Donbas area. He tried once more shortly after the full-scale invasion, dragooning delegations from Moscow and Kyiv to the southeastern metropolis of Gomel, however the talks shortly fell aside.

Many observers at the moment are elevating questions on whether or not Mr. Prigozhin can be secure from the specter of kidnapping or assassination in Belarus, given Mr. Putin’s overtly expressed anger at him.

Even earlier than 2020, when Lukashenko turned nonetheless extra Putin’s puppet, Russian particular companies generally entered Belarus’ territory to seize its enemies, mentioned Mr. Slunkin, the European Council analyst. “And now, they’ll simply do what they need.”

Nonetheless a lot the stability of energy between Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Putin could have shifted now, each males nonetheless want one another to stay in energy.

“They’re two Siamese twins,” mentioned Pavel Latushka, a former Belarusian diplomat and minister now in exile. “They will’t stay with out one another. It’s one physique, two heads. The autumn of 1 means the political loss of life of one other.”


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