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Belarus has been inextricably linked to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And although Putin has used the country and its land as a springboard to conduct offensives against its neighbor, extracting a huge proportion of its physical hardware in terms of tanks and military vehicles, the Belarusian armed forces are not themselves fighting.

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is Putin’s biggest ally, but he knows his geopolitical place and has been a wily operator. He has been vocal enough in his support for Russia’s war, active enough in what he has committed, but he hasn’t taken his support to the limit Putin would have liked. Belarus has been sanctioned, and life is difficult for the country, but Lukashenko is not the global pariah that his Russian counterpart is.

This situation may not be to the liking of the Kremlin. While Lukashenko and his foreign minister had publically supported the Russians and their narrative, they could always do more.

And now that foreign minister, 64-year-old Vladimir Makei, has died. Suddenly. And over 24 hours later, no explanation or cause of death has been given.

Foreign Ministry announced from its official Facebook account yesterday, “Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, has suddenly passed away today.” Both Lukashenko and Makei’s infamous Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, have given their public condolences.

Having been in his position since 2012, Makei declared back in February that no one would attack Ukraine from Belarus, though its airbases and other facilities are openly used by the Russian forces, with considerable troops being presently billeted and trained there. Public opinion has been in strong opposition to Belarusian involvement and dead Belarusian soldiers, and the leaders will have known that.

Indeed, only Canada has been sanctioning Makei individually. Until 2020, Russian pro-Kremlin media and Telegram channels had been repeatedly accusing Makei of seeking to improve relations between Belarus and the West to the detriment of Russia’s interests.

This sudden news comes on the back of the Robert Lansing Institute for Global Threats and Democracies Studies, a US-based think tank, reporting just a day before his death:

According to sources within the Russian military leadership, the Kremlin has made a decision on a radical “solution” to the issue of dragging Belarus into Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine.

On the instructions of Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his return from the latest CSTO summit, the Russian military intelligence may attempt in the coming days to pursue a scenario involving either an assassination attempt targeting Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko or its imitation, with the aim of ultimately intimidating the latter and prompting him to finally order his troops to directly engage in the war on Ukraine, alongside Russian troops, sources report.

The Russian GRU Headquarters is looking into the scenario, which involves Lukashenko being killed during the operation, as a result of which his duties will be entrusted to the incumbent CSTO General Secretary Sanislav Zas, who is fully loyal to Russia and under GRU’s control.

The CSTO is a Eurasian organization of six post-Soviet states, headed by Russia, and seen as an answer to NATO. They met just before Makei’s death, and he was an attendee.

Pro-Ukrainian sources are now wondering what Putin’s move will be and whether a Russian puppet politician will find themselves in a new role as Belarusian Foreign Minister.

[For more information on the Russia-Ukraine war, see Jonathan MS Pearce’s daily updates on YouTube at A Tippling Philosopher and ATP Geopolitics.]

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...