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Belarus people deserve better than to be ‘vassals’ of Russia: France

France on Friday expressed fear that Belarus could become a vassal state of Russia, after autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenko allowed Russian troops to use its territory for the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia, which had grouped some 30,000 troops in Belarus ostensibly for exercises in the last weeks, sent the troops deployed in the country across its southern neighbour’s border.

“Belarus and its people deserve better than to become the accomplices and vassals of a brutal regime that has chosen to wage war,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“The complicity of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia — in the most total disregard of international law and signed agreements — marks a new and very serious stage in the process of the submission of Mr Lukashenko to Russia,” he added.

The role of Belarus in the invasion of Ukraine comes after it grew ever closer to Russia following August 2020 elections that the West believes were rigged, and that sparked mass protests.

Le Drian made the comments in a statement after meeting Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who the West believes was the true winner of the elections and not Lukashenko who has been in power for almost three decades.

They met two days ahead of a constitutional referendum to be held in Belarus on Sunday seen as a bid for Lukashenko to further extend his stay in power and arrange an eventual transition.

Furthermore, the amendments proposed by the regime include a change to the post-Soviet status of neutrality on Belarus which would allow the country to host Russian nuclear weapons and Russian forces on a permanent basis.

“Together with our partners, we will have to draw all the consequences of this situation in adapting NATO’s defence stance,” said Le Drian.

In an interview with AFP this week, Tikhanovskaya said Lukashenko was prepared to sacrifice the country’s sovereignty because he was “grateful” for the Kremlin’s support in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Lukashenko unleashed a ruthless crackdown to quell to the post-election protests, with activists saying there are now over 1,000 political prisoners in jail.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.




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