Lukashenka goes for the West. That’s what Russian press understood from his working visit to Vilnius on September’16. First time since 1998 he went to Lithuania and – to EU.
But no, he is not going to take sides between Russia and EU.
While in Vilnius he was talking about the importance of the relations with Brussels and Belarus’ contribution into European security. He said Minsk was not going to make any special moves to impress the West to have the sanctions lifted: if EU wanted to improve relations and have a dialogue, it’d just do this.
At the same time he tried to comfort Moscow telling Lithuanian journalists that Belarusian parliament would look into the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in October. Underlining Russia is an important partner for Minsk.
Lukashenka repeated the usual things he instructs his ministers with. Interesting enough that the same rhetoric sounds very different outside Belarus.
Back home his quotes are to be written up and analysed, they pave the way for the development of the country. In Vilnius he seemed to be defending his right to be the way he is, to rule the country his way. He went on the defensive simply to be understood.
Love me or leave me, is the message to the EU. You won’t change me but we could try and come to a compromise to normalise relations.
It’s also that Lukashenka was pretty nervous. That’s very understandable: his offices have everything under control in Minsk, when and where everyone goes, they line up journalists and usually decide on the questions.
The change of the situation is clearly seen in his pictures. The limited number of Belarusian photographers who work with the President can take pictures of him only from certain perspectives, afterwards the pictures are edited in Photoshop. In Vilnius any photographer could work almost from any place. And in these pictures Lukashenka looks older, he looks worked out and strained. And by the way, very human.