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Why does Lukashenka visit Ukraine so often?
Petro Poroshenko and Aliaksandr Lukashenka
On Thursday, 20 July, the Belarus leader will begin his two-day official visit to Ukraine - the fifth visit by Aliaksandr Lukashenka to the neighboring country since the conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in 2014. This is less than the number of visits to Russia but much more than to any other neighboring nation.
According to the official statement on the website of Belarusian leader, the presidents will meet in Kyiv both one-on-one and in an extended format.
"The heads of state will discuss the development of political, trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine," the official press release explains drily.
Euroradio has asked several experts to comment on why Lukashenka visits Ukraine so often.
Volodymir Fesenko, Center for Political Studies "Penta", Ukraine:
This number of visits is an indicator and confirmation of relatively good, stable, neighborly and even friendly relation between our countries. Relations are friendly despite the fact that Belarus is a close ally of Russia, the country with which Ukraine's relations are far from being warm. This is also confirmation of good relations between the two presidents, because personal relations often become a very important factor in relations between nations. Where does Lukashenka interest lie? Why has he decided to rapproach with Poroshenko and boost Belarus-Ukraine relations? First of all, Ukraine is a neighbor of Belarus. Ensuring socio-economic and political stability (both domestically and in foreign policy) remains one of Lukashenka's main priorities. In the situation of the acute military conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the war in Donbas, the importance of stability has grown. Lukashenka wants to maintain this stability in relations with Ukraine in order to mitigate the risks of this conflict spilling over into Belarus - both from Ukraine and Russia. Secondly, Lukashenka is maneuvering. Russia's brutal and aggressive actions against Ukraine raised serious concerns among th neighbors prompting Lukashenka to begin maneuvering. To him, the Ukraine issue became handy as a fine balance to neutralize Russia's excessive guardianship. Thirdly, by using the Ukraine crisis and proposing Minsk as a venue for talks to settle the conflict in Donbas, Lukashenka has achieved a significant improvement in relations with the West. Ukraine also stands as an intermediary between Lukashenka and the West. Lukashenka remains an alien to Western leaders. Hence, some contacts and discussions on key topics take place via President Poroshenko. Correspondingly, relations with Ukraine are important for Belarus for several reasons ranging from building friendly relations to using the Ukraine factor in relations with the West.
Listen to full interview with Volodymir Fesenko here:
Ihar Tyshkevich, Institute of the Future, Ukraine:
Lukashenka needs a future: future markets, money, profit and mutual business. he also needs a "defense attorney" in contacts with the European Union and United States. It is not surprising that Aliaksandr Lukashenka visits Kyiv so often. In 2012-2013, Belarus' exports to Ukraine reached $5 billion. In 2014-2015, it dropped down to $2.5-2.8 billion. But Ukraine's market is important to Belarus, because it is profitable. The mutual trade balance has never fallen below $1.5 billion in surplus for Belarus. This means money now and in the future.
Listen to the full interview with Ihar Tyshkevich here:
Andrei Parotnikau, Belarus Security Blog, Belarus
Lukashenka travels to Ukraine because it is very important for him to preserve the current level of trade and economic cooperation and grow it further. Secondly, he hopes that Ukraine will act as a lobbyst of Belarus in the West. Thirdly, he has to find a political agenda in the bilateral relations. At the moment, the political agenda in relations with Ukraine is simply non-existant.