Lukashenko once kept Russia at bay. Now he is a docile satrap of Putin.

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“He is very weak and will do anything to buy Putin’s support,” she said in a recent interview in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, where she now leads what amounts to a government in exile and where the potential US ambassador to Minsk is stationed.

On paper, Belarus and Russia have been linked at the hip since the late 1990s, when then Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed with Mr Lukashenko to form a so-called Union state, an arrangement which the Belarusian leader said would dominate. because Mr. Yeltsin was so weak, beleaguered by health problems and serious political problems.

However, since Mr. Putin replaced Mr. Yeltsin in the Kremlin on December 31, 1999, he has put Mr. Lukashenko in his place, making it clear that the stillborn union state had to be put in place – with Russia , not Belarus, calling the shots.

When meeting with Mr Lukashenko in Moscow on Friday, Mr Putin said that after years of delays, “serious progress” was finally being made in integrating the countries’ economic, political and military systems.

“We have a lot to discuss and coordinate our positions on a series of issues,” said the Russian president in an ominous tone.

After years of resisting pressure from Moscow to recognize Crimea, which Russia annexed to Ukraine in 2014, Mr Lukashenko recently said that Belarus accepted that the Black Sea peninsula would now de facto be part of Russia.

As for the status of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which broke away from Russian support in 2014 and declared themselves “republics”, Lukashenko said on Thursday he would follow Russia’s lead in how they should be dealt with.

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