Alexander Lukashenko’s regime might use the presence of Russian forces in Belarus during joint exercises to blackmail its western neighbors, as well as Ukraine, says Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.The statement came as Tikhanovskaya was addressing a group of about a thousand local Belarusian community activists who came for the meeting from all across the U.S. Sunday, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
“The regime could use the presence of Russian troops to blackmail its western neighbors and Ukraine. There is a lot of talk about it now,” she said. “Threats could vary.”
At the same time, she believes the presence of Russian forces is posing no threat to democratic change in Belarus. “Such exercises are held rather often, so I see no clear threat to Belarus, although I’m no expert in these matters,” she added.
Read also: Russia may carry out large-scale military provocation against Ukraine this year – TaranAsked by Ukrinform whether the Belarusian opposition feels support coming from Ukraine, she said: “Ukrainians stand with us, Ukrainians support us. And the fact that they accept so many resettled persons (migrants), eased legislation to offer people the opportunity to get a job and start their own business is already proof of great support.
At the same time, in her opinion, Ukraine is quite cautious in expressing its political position, as Lukashenko resorted to his own tactics, which is blackmail.
“We feel this support, we have high-level communication with Ukraine officials, and we will gradually strengthen these ties,” Tikhanovskaya added.
As reported, in September 2021, a large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad 2021 (West 2021) will be held in Belarus. Experts see the drill as one of the main ways for Russia to absorb the neighboring country’s independence, also expressing concerns as regards Ukraine’s security.
Read also: Ukrainian army 100% ready to repel Russia’s armed aggression – KhomchakThe Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ruslan Khomchak, said the upcoming joint exercises are posing a potential threat to Ukraine.
Mass protests have been ongoing in Belarus since August 2020 against the rigging of the presidential election results after Alexander Lukashenko was declared winner.
The European Union, the United States, Ukraine, and most democracies have not recognized the legitimacy of the Lukashenko regime.
Lukashenko’s rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has been forced out of the country and is now living in Lithuania where she represents the Belarusian opposition at the international level.

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