Date: 22 September 2020

More Russian troops in Belarus, EU is debating sanctions

The effects of Lukashenko’s conversation with Putin in Sochi and shortly after Sergey Shoygu’s visit to Minsk are already becoming visible. On Monday, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense informed that about 1,000 Russian soldiers will take part in the second stage of the Slavic Brotherhood maneuvers (September 22-25). There will be many more soldiers taking part in the second stage than in the first one, which was originally established a long time ago. There will be as many as 6,000 soldiers and 500 units of equipment present, including about 1,000 military and about 100 units of equipment from Russia. It could be observed that the exercises have not only been extended, but the scale of the project has also been significantly increased. For the first stage of the maneuvers, near Brest, Russia has sent only about 300 military and about 70 units of equipment while Belarus about 500 military and about 100 units of equipment. Meanwhile, the European Union rejects Lukashenko’s rule. Following the meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, EU head of diplomacy – Josep Borrell declared that the EU does not recognize Alexander Lukashenko as a legitimate president. Consequently, after the end of Lukashenko’s current term in the office (November 5), the EU’s diplomatic relations with Belarus are to be downgraded. The meeting of the heads of diplomacy of EU countries did not result in an agreement on sanctions against representatives of the Belarusian regime, responsible for repressions and electoral fraud. The sanctions are not supported by Cyprus which is demanding restrictions on Turkey because of illegal drilling by this country in the eastern Mediterranean. In this situation, the issue of sanctions will be addressed by the heads of states and governments at the EU summit on 24-25 September. On Monday, a court in Minsk rejected a motion to repeal the arrest of the Belarusian oppositionist Maria Kolesnikova. This means that Siarhei Babaryka’s colleague (also remaining in custody), who is a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, will remain in custody. She is accused of calling for actions detrimental to state security. Employees of the Belaruskali company in Salihorsk in the south of Belarus, who participated in a support initiative of the protesting miner – Aleh Kudziolka, who refused to come back to the surface, were arrested. The state concern Belaruskali produces potassium fertilizers. In 2019, it controlled about 20% of the world market in this sector.

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