Police and protesters clashed in Belgrade on Tuesday as the longtime leader sought a sixth term amid growing discontent over his handling of a revolt that has simmered since the summer.
Faced with opposition ultimatums and the threat of a nationwide strike, Belarus closed its biggest tourist attraction, the Belarusian National Museum, to most visitors on Thursday and imposed sanctions on 30 senior Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko, on Monday. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have also expressed concerns to Newsweek. So far, according to the European Union, only a handful of countries, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have imposed sanctions on Belarus because of its human rights record.
Yet Moscow views Belarus as a buffer state against NATO, and it is impossible for Putin not to watch events in Belarus and fear a similar insurgency in Russia. A large number of Western commentators believe that one geopolitical aspect of the Belarusian revolution is wrong, namely that Russia will lose Belarus if the opposition comes to power. But that would represent a second aspect that they ignored: how Belarus, like Ukraine, was a loyal member of Putin's Russian world.
The future of democracy in Belarus may not be decided in Minsk, but in Moscow, and it is unknown what else Putin will have to promise to keep Russia on his side, especially as regards Belarus's future integration with Russia. To achieve a DCFTA, Belarus would need a "BELEXIT," which, assuming the referendum is won, would deal a blow to Putin's EaEU and remove Belarus from the Russian world.
Relations between Belarus and Ukraine are inhibited, particularly in the political sphere. Soviet-era Russification, which Lukashenka continued to the detriment of the Belarusian language and culture Belarus has become more and more dependent on Russia for its economic, political and military support.
Belarus differs from Ukraine in that there has been a significant difference in language and culture between the two countries since the 1980s. Immediately after independence, many more people spoke Ukrainian in Kiev than in Minsk.
Ukrainian-Belarusian relations remained close, although almost all of the Ukrainian territory belonging to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was transferred to Poland by the Union of Lublin, while the Belarusian lands remained in the duchies. The Russian occupation of eastern and northern Lithuania coincided with the Lithuanian and Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republics. The most eastern part was formed by the Belarusian SSR and then joined the USSR in 1922, and the most western part of Belarus in 1924. Ukrainian territories, West Belarus was ceded to Poland, but the Russian SFSR included parts of both. In 1925, parts of the Lithuanian SSR merged into what is informally called Litbel - Lithuania, of which Vilnius is the "capital."
The 1995 and 1996 Treaties marked the borders between Belarus and Latvia, but Belarus did not ratify the 1997 Treaty establishing the border between Belarus and Ukraine.
The present-day territory of Belarus was considered part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while Ukraine and Podlaskie were under the Polish Crown. The union between Poland and Lithuania ended in 1795, and the commonwealth was divided by Imperial Russia, Prussia, and Austria, with Belarus divided into three guberniyas: the Northwestern Region, the Northern Region, or the Belarus-Prussian-Russian Community. After Napoleon's defeat, Belarus became part of the Russian Empire again, but remained part of the "Polish-Lithuanian Union" until Moscow annexed the Smolensk region. During the Second World War, the entire Belarusian Gubernia was reunited under the Soviet Union, and its Gubernias, together with the northwestern Krai, formed part of the United States of America.
The Belarusian and Ukrainian territories, which formed nine to ten percent of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, were initially culturally dominant.
Belarus is a landlocked country bordering Lithuania and Latvia, and the western borders of both countries generally correspond to these ethnic borders. Belarus borders Latvia to the north, Latvia borders Belarus to the west, Liusyn, Liusina and Turiv are located west of Mosyr and north of Ovruch. There are about 300,000 Belarusians living in Latvia, and only a few in Lithuania or Poland. Since then, the ethnic borders of Belarus and Ukraine have been widely accepted as their ethnic border.
Throughout its history, Belarus has long had solid and direct relations with Ukraine, but not always positively.
Together with Russia and Ukraine, Belarus was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States in December 1991, and its creation marked the end of the USSR. In 2000, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed a treaty establishing the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) in 2000. The most recent comprehensive regional agreement is the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Belarus and the other founding members of the EU and Russia. This next stage of integration involves the creation of a common market and currency, the Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan (BRT).
Belarusian land was incorporated into the Commonwealth of Independent States in the first phase of independent feudal consolidation and then in the late 19th century.