Putin meets Lukashenko in Minsk: what does it mean for the conflict in Ukraine

Elizabeth Smith

The Russian president met his Belarusian counterpart in Minsk. On the table were political and trade relations, the energy issue and, of course, the war in Ukraine. The fear is that Putin wants to convince Lukashenko to intervene directly.

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed at Minsk airport, where he was welcomed by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. The summit between the two presidents took place in the Independence Palace in Minsk.

After the broader part, a Putin-Lukashenko face-to-face took place. It was followed by a meeting of the two presidents with accredited journalists.

Putin meets Lukashenko, what can it mean for the war in Ukraine

“Russia and Belarus are number one allies,” Kremlin spokesman Peskov stressed, ruling out earlier speculation in some media that Belarus is trying to bargain more favourable terms on gas supplies in exchange for direct engagement in the war in Ukraine.

The visit comes as Moscow is likely preparing its next offensive in Ukraine. Hence the accusations by Ukrainian Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko that Putin went to convince his Belarusian ally to take direct action against Kiev.

The Kremlin immediately rejected the accusations through its spokesman Dmitri Peskov. Who stated at a press conference in Minsk that “Belarus is the number one partner and ally for the Russian Federation. It is with Belarus that we have the most integrated system”.

About a direct involvement of Belarus in the conflict, Peskov added: “No one is forcing anyone. Each takes the steps that best correspond to the interests of our peoples and our Union”.

Putin meets Lukashenko, what was discussed

Asked whether the war in Ukraine will dominate the agenda, Peskov said that while the Russian delegation includes Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and other military personnel, most are civilians.

“Relations are broad and multifaceted,” Peskov continued. Thus explaining that integration, trade and economic programmes will be discussed. “And of course, also military aspects, given the difficult and turbulent situation around us”.

Among the issues to be discussed will be the creation of a single gas market, this at a time when Western chancelleries are struggling to find a cap on gas prices.

In February, Moscow used its ally as a launching pad for the invasion. Since then, the Ukrainians’ great fear is that Belarus will actively take part in military operations, even though Lukashenko has always said he will not send his own troops to fight in Ukraine.

Read also: Paris conference, 1 billion aid package to Ukraine to get through winter

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