Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to assist his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko militarily if necessary as the latter faces mounting anti-government protests, the Kremlin said Sunday.
While the traditionally staunch allies are in a more precarious place than usual because of Lukashenko's recent aversion to deepening political and economic ties with Moscow, Putin reportedly is at least telling Lukashenko he's prepared to intervene on his behalf because he fears a revolution spilling over into Russia. Per BBC, Russian television broadcasts are drawing parallels between the Belarus demonstrations and Ukraine's Euromaidan protests in 2014, which preceded Russia's invasion of Crimea.
But while some analysts have laid out possibilities for why Putin may follow through, others have pointed out that the situation in Belarus is not actually similar to Ukraine and Putin will most likely hold back. Indeed, even though Russian TV is backing Lukashenko publicly, news sites are reportedly criticizing the embattled Belarusian leader, who may be losing his grasp over the rest of the government.
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Back in 2014, Ukraine was choosing between East and West, and Russia was determined not to lose influence over the country. Russia also wants to keep Belarus in its orbit, but that's not really what these protests are about, BBC's Steve Rosenberg notes. While Lukashenko's ties to Russia have certainly played a role in his ability to maintain power for 26 years, the protests are specifically directed at Minsk, not Moscow, so Putin may decide he won't to risk an invasion for Lukashenko's sake. Tim O'Donnell
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