It was a meeting of experts in the suppression of peaceful protests: Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin received the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the holiday resort of Sochi yesterday. At least in front of the TV cameras, the two demonstrated a warm cooperation. “We are close people,” emphasized Putin and promised the Belarusians more deliveries of the Russian corona vaccine Sputnik V. After a casual hour of chat about the strategic partnership in the fields of economy, energy and culture, the two even went skiing together.
But behind the scenes there must have been a violent crunch between the two. The Russian President Putin has evidently once again sworn his “little brother dictator” in Minsk to be loyal to Moscow. Belarus is economically bankrupt and relies on oil supplies and aid from Russia. After the violent crackdown on the dissident street protests, Lukashenko can no longer expect any help from the West. But Putin is also dependent on the small Belarus. He sees his neighboring country primarily as a strategically important buffer zone to NATO. And on the day the EU launches sanctions against Moscow, images of unity are important even for Putin.
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