“The point is that Belarus is one of those countries that properly understands the situation in the post-Soviet space. Correspondingly, Lukashenka is capable of acting as a mediator between Kiev and Moscow. He is perceived equally well in the both capitals,” Kiev-based political analyst Kost Bondarenko comments on the decision to hold new negotiations between Ukraine and Russia in the capital of Belarus.
The idea was voiced by President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in the evening of July 29. Belarus President Aliaksandr Lukashenka agreed to this request several hours later. Media reports suggest that the first round of talks will be held in Minsk between Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma, Russian ambassador Mikhail Zurabov and OSCE representatives. It is yet to be known if representatives of self-proclaimed republics will join the talks. Their participation might come in handy, since the official reason for negotiations is Ukraine's desire to free captive Ukrainian soldiers (around 200) and to clear up the way for the investigation of the Malaysian Airlines crash.
Kost Bondarenko is convinced that it will be much easier to negotiate in Minsk for several reasons, including because Lukashenka, probably best of all, understands the situation.
“I think Lukashenka's mission will work out. It will be more effective than the missions by European or American politicians. They do not know the situation in Ukraine as deeply as Lukashenka.”
The talks are scheduled to begin already on July 31. The stance of Russia, which is to account for its own position and the separatists, is yet to be known, because the Kremlin is not commenting on this development. Political commentator Aliaksandr Feduta also reckons that the talks will be more successful that the previous attempts - also because Russia currently is in a totally different situation.
“The previous talks took place when West's pressure on Moscow was not as intense as after the downing of the Malayasian Airlines jet. Today, the situation has changed significantly.”
What about Lukashenka? Pundits maintain this is a win-win situation for him. First of all, he has a chance to become a successful regional politician. He can also demonstrate his independence to Russia and his power and ability to resolve problems to the West. Moreover, with the next presidential elections next year, it is high time to organize a little thaw in relations between Belarus and West.