Publications in the "Expert opinion" section are not editorial articles and reflect exclusively the author's point of view.
What should be Ukraine's new strategy for Belarus? Our current relations with official Minsk obviously need to be reconsidered.
We lack both strategic vision and pragmatism in our relations with Belarus.
The territory of Belarus (if the regime of the Russian Gauleiter Lukashenko is preserved or replaced by another Kremlin puppet) is a direct threat to several Ukrainian regions - Chernihiv, Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Rivne, Volyn, and Lviv.
These are the roads with the main logistics corridor connecting Ukraine with its partner states in the West. Two nuclear power plants are located in this direction. We should protect them at any cost.
The new policy towards Belarus should clearly outline the boundaries of a possible dialogue with the self-proclaimed authorities of this country. We should also form the foundations for cooperation with the Belarusian opposition.
Price of Ukrainian mistakes
The obvious threats associated with de facto Russia's occupation of Belarus come together with a separate threat of an illegitimate authoritarian puppet regime headed by Alexander Lukashenko.
However, Kyiv preferred to ignore this problem for a very long time.
Ukrainian policy towards Belarus did not have any value. It was determined by corrupt politicians and the mercantile interests of quick gaining. In the media space, until recently, we heard fables - from admiration for a "steady hand" and an "efficient economic manager" to a "catty style balanced policy of Belarus between Russia and the West."
for a very long time, we allowed Lukashenko to make fools of ourselves with his promises that he could not or did not intend to fulfill.
First of all, his promise not to attack Ukraine. The price of Kyiv's defence in March 2022 and our unpreparedness for an attack from Belarus should finalise all discussions about the benefits of cooperation with Lukashenko.
But why don't we cut off ties with Belarus?
What should be Ukraine's effective response to the daily missile strikes from the territory of Belarus or the launching of Iranian kamikaze drones that kill Ukrainians and destroy our infrastructure? A diplomatic note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or a strike back?
Counting on our own strength in opposing Lukashenko seems to me much more motivated than hoping that he will be able or willing to resist Putin's pressure.
With whom to hold a dialogue in Belarus?
Ukraine made a crucial decision not to recognize the results of the presidential elections in Belarus and to call Lukashenko an illegitimate leader in 2020.
Kyiv consistently adheres to its declared line, refusing (at least officially and publicly) political dialogue with the Belarusian usurper and all his authorities.
But the Belarusian state, and moreover, the Belarusian people, still exist.
With whom and how do we continue the dialogue in Belarus without a legitimate government?
Let's try to find an answer.
First of all, if the authorities of Belarus cannot represent the people of this country, then the only obvious alternative is the opposition.
The opposition in Belarus exists only in prisons. The opposition in exile experiences all the typical difficulties and problems of emigration, including political fragmentation.
The so-called "old opposition," not the only representatives of which are Zianon Pazniak, Andrei Sannikov, Natalya Radina, and many other ardent opponents of Lukashenko, were forced out of Belarus many years ago after imprisonment, torture, intimidation, or political provocations.
These are primarily intellectual and ideological people, well-known in Ukraine, who have earned quite wide recognition in the Western world due to their devotion to the professed principles and democratic humanistic ideals. But their long forced absence in Belarus makes them less visible and influential in the real political environment.
The newest wave of mass political emigration from Belarus, triggered by the brutal crackdown on protests following the 2020 elections, is heterogeneous.
The central opposition figure, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and her numerous entourage, who settled in Lithuania, have a very ambiguous reputation.
Tsikhanouskaya made many mistakes following the elections, making people doubt her stable political views and leadership qualities.
It is difficult for me right now to suggest a different approach than the one chosen by the Ukrainian authorities - to avoid contact and to closely observe this political group and its efforts to achieve broad international recognition. But they give the impression of political tourism.
According to some sources, the Lithuanian authorities, forced to bear the related political, organisational, and financial expenses, feel a certain discomfort from the presence of this political group in their country. They don't fully understand what to do with it. They don't have any idea where it will lead to.
The attitude towards Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is ambiguous in Belarus as well.
Many believe that in the 2020 elections, Belarusians, putting a tick next to her surname, voted against Lukashenko rather than for her.
So who can be recognised by Ukraine as a real representative of the people of Belarus?
Alternative from Ukraine
The Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine can certainly be considered the most authoritative institution among Belarusians both inside and outside the country.
Belarusian soldiers have earned their authority with blood and sweat in real battles. They wear the chevrons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the white-red-white flag banned by Lukashenko.
Lukashenko supporters and Belarusian minions who love Russia treat the regiment with understandable hatred, but they can no longer ignore its existence.
Instead, Lukashenko's opponents consider the regiment almost the only hope for future changes in Belarus. Progressive democratic Belarusians perceive the regiment as Ukrainians perceive their Armed Forces. They volunteer for the regiment and support the soldiers with all their might.
"Kalinoŭtsi" already know they have no right to limit their tasks, only fighting against Russia. Given their authority, they must bear responsibility for the fate of the Belarusian opposition and the future of internal transformations in their country.
Recently, the regiment elected its political representation - Seim.
It includes both servicemen of the regiment and representatives of the new wave of Belarusian emigration.
If Ukraine recognized its existence, this formation could unite the broad Belarusian opposition in Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania.
The next logical step is to recognise it as one of the legitimate representatives of the interests of the Belarusian people.
We can surely expect that the combined efforts of Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland will make it possible to form official interaction with such an opposition platform. It will inspire Belarusian resistance and deprive Lukashenko of his legitimacy in the eyes of the Belarusian people.
The military part of the regiment will continue its existence and may have interesting prospects.
Belarusian soldiers who do not confuse the oath to their people with Lukashenko could undergo military service.
Quite quickly, such a brigade can become a force factor that the Belarusian authorities will be forced to consider when planning any illegal force punitive or repressive actions against their people.
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So, we shouldn't waste our time. In front of us is a window of opportunities to protect ourselves and help restore freedom to our brotherly people, whose representatives defend the Ukrainian will in the same order of battle as the Ukrainians.
They can do everything else themselves.