Why Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Led to Sanctions on Belarus

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Belarusian regime’ defense sector and financial institutions Thursday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing Minsk’s “support for, and facilitation of” Moscow’s attack.

The 24 entities and individuals subject to these sanctions include Viktor Khrenin the Belarusian defence minister, two state-owned banks and several security companies that have been linked with Russia.

“Having already sacrificed its legitimacy to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenko regime is now jeopardizing Belarus’ sovereignty by supporting Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine,” said U.S. treasury minister Janet Yellen.
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The U.S. isn’t the only country sanctioning these institutions and individuals. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced similar punitive measures for Belarus’ reported role in the assault.

Some 30,000 Russian troops were deployed to Ukraine as tensions between Moscow, Kyiv grew last week Their stay was extended in Belarus. Since months the U.S. warnings that Russia creates pretexts for swooping on Kyiv. attack on UkraineThe final launch of ‘, was Thursday.

Lukashenko has denied Participation of Belarusian troops in Moscow’s attack, although he said he was willing to support Russian forces if necessary, state media reported. However, there are reports that Russian troops may be present entering Ukraine from its northern border, the Belarusian regime’s role in the emerging conflict in Europe has come under increased scrutiny.

“I think the most alarming thing we now understand is that we’re not quite sure whether Belarus could be considered as a sovereign state in terms of control on its own territory, especially in terms of military control,” says Olga Dryndova, editor of Belarus-Analysen at the University of Bremen’s Research Center for East European Studies in Germany.

State Border Guard Service of Ukraine/EYEPRESS/ReutersA convoy crosses the Belarusian-Ukrainian border at Senkovka–Veselovka, captured by CCTV cameras.

Relationship between Russia and Belarus

Belarus and Russia were both part of the ex-Soviet Union. These days, Russia is also Belarus’ key trade partner. According to the 2020 Bilateral Trade Report, $29.5 Billion was traded between them in bilateral trade. government data. Regular military drills are also held between the two countries, with most recently one in Feb.10 near Belarus’ southern border with Ukraine.

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Since 1999, the Kremlin has urged Belarus and Russia to implement their joint treaty of 1999. The treaty vowed that the two nations would form an alliance similar to the European Union. It promised broad cooperation, but it also guaranteed their independence. Lukashenko reportedly hoped that in signing the treaty, he would be chosen to replace outgoing Russian President Boris Yeltsin—who was sick at the time. The treaty was not fully implemented, however, as Vladimir Putin won the presidency.

Moscow offered several suggestions for greater integration, but Lukashenko rejected them all. This was the hotly contested 2020 Belarusian electionsThis was changed. Lukashenko claimed that he won a sixth-term by overwhelming majority, in spite of claims to the contrary. Election fraud and widespread vote-rigging. Minsk has since warmed up to Moscow—especially after Putin recognized Lukashenko’s victory in the polls and Security aid offeredIf massive protests against the government in the country escalate.

Dryndova believes that Lukashenko was able to stay in power in Belarus because of Russia’s show of support. “I don’t see how possible it was for him to stay in power without the support of Putin,” she says. However, it was not without cost. “That’s also the tragedy of the protests of 2020—that they made [Lukashenko] so weak that he is now not able to ask Putin to move his tanks out of the territory.”

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Ihar Tyshkevich is an expert in Belarus at the Ukrainian Institute of the Future. He says that Lukashenko doesn’t have the power to stop Russia stationing troops in Belarus and does not stand to lose by allowing Moscow to use Minsk territory.

“Lukashenko cannot benefit from Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Tyshkevich says. “But he has no choice.”

Belarus stands to lose what?

By allowing Russian troops to enter Ukraine from the northern border, Lukashenko has effectively surrendered the sovereignty of Belarus, according to Jörg Forbrig, Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the German Marshall Fund.

“By now, his country is basically part of the Russian military space,” Forbrig says. “It is a staging ground for the Russian army.”

Belarusian authorities have called Ukraine an “important trading partner,” but that relationship will likely also be severely impacted by the latest developments, says Forbrig. The oil trade accounts for a significant portion of the total. In 2019, approximately half Belarus’ $4.14 billion in exportsThe main export from Ukraine to refined petroleum products. The other major export of Belarus to Ukraine: electricity. Belarusian state mediaIn 2021, it was predicted that Ukraine’s electricity exports could reach 1.2 billion kilowatt hours. This relationship will end after Ukraine announced it would stop imports from Ukraine. Belarus produces electricityIn response to the crisis

Oleksandr Ratushniak—APUkrainian border patrol officers inspect the Ukrainian-Belarusian border at Novi Yarylovychi checkpoint, Ukraine on Feb. 21

Strengthened ties between Minsk and Moscow also signify Russia’s growing counter-response to the NATO alliance, which Ukraine has expressed interest in joining. The Kremlin’s ability to station troops in Belarus puts pressure on NATO powers to respond to the precarious defense and security situation in the region, Forbrig says. Three of Belarus’ neighboring states are members of NATO—Latvia, Lithuania and Poland—and other member-states in the region are already on high-alert due to the Ukraine crisis. Lukashenko made an offer to Russian nuclear weapons on the tableIn the country, if NATO They were to be movedU.S. nuclear bombs, from Germany to Eastern Europe. Referendum on constitutional amendments to be held in the near future scrapping Belarus’ “non-nuclear statusCould allow it.

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Lukashenko ruled Belarus for over 28 years. But that could change. As an autocracy, Belarus has little to no reliable data on Lukashenko’s popularity, but one 2020 poll before the Aug. 9 elections and the protests that followed showed Lukashenko’s approval rating 2.4%. Many protestors claimed that election results had been rigged.

“The bigger question at some stage is whether or not Lukashenko at some stage becomes dispensable to Moscow,” says Forbrig, noting that the Belarusian leader’s power is effectively sponsored by Putin. “They may find at some stage that installing a different ruler in Belarus will be beneficial for them.”


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