Alexander Lukashenko emphasizes the close ties between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad – and talks about a takeover.
Minsk – Is Alexander Lukashenko thinking about taking over Russian territory? At a meeting with the governor and other representatives of the Kaliningrad region, the Belarusian ruler said that he had always called Kaliningrad "mine".
At the meeting on Monday (5 June 2023) in Minsk, Lukashenko again fired at the West and the sanctions imposed. He emphasized the long-standing, even age-old cohesion between Kaliningrad and Belarus and said that they could not be separated by "artificial barriers". The 68-year-old probably jokingly said that he would like to "take over" the Russian exclave.
Lukashenko would like to be closer to Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad was once part of East Prussia. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow annexed the territory. Since the independence of the Baltic states in 1991, Kaliningrad has been a Russian exclave bordering Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.
Lukashenko is considered a close confidant of Vladimir Putin and maintains close relations with the Kremlin. The president supports the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine logistically and rhetorically. In addition to Russia, the EU and Western states therefore also imposed sanctions on Belarus, which, among other things, significantly restrict the transport of goods to Kaliningrad.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (l) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (r). © Alexei Druzhinin/dpa
At the meeting, Lukashenko said: "I am sure that you will agree with me that the unprecedented attempt by the West in 2022 to restrict our communication with you, the free movement of goods by rail and road, both from Russia and Belarus, was doomed to failure. Separating us by artificial barriers will never work," he was quoted as saying by the state news agency Belta.
Lukashenko also said at the meeting that in Soviet times, Belarus "was responsible, so to speak, for the Kaliningrad region. That's why I've always called it mine." He would not mind if Belarus and Kaliningrad were closer to each other, he said. Kaliningrad representatives smiled, suggesting that they probably did not take Lukashenko's remarks too seriously. In Soviet times, no one would have kept Belarus and Kaliningrad apart, the president added. Ukrainian government adviser Anton Gerashchenko shared a video of the meeting on Twitter, commenting: "Lukashenko suddenly remembered his warm feelings for the Kaliningrad region of Russia."
Lukashenko highlights cooperation between Belarus and Kaliningrad
Belarus and the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast are not directly related to each other, but are separated by Lithuania and Poland. The so-called Suwalki Gap refers to the border area between Poland and Lithuania and represents the only land connection between the Baltic states and the other NATO members. Geopolitically and militarily, Kaliningrad plays an important role. Among other things, Russia's only ice-free port, which houses the Baltic Fleet, is located in the territory of the exclave. A direct train connection from Kaliningrad runs through Lithuania and Belarus to Moscow.
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|Kaliningrad||Oblast in the Russian Federation|
|Area||15,125 square kilometres|
|Population||approx. 941,000 inhabitants|
Belarus and Kaliningrad are closely linked in areas such as the economy, culture and education, Lukashenko said at the meeting. "I am convinced that this visit is another milestone in consolidating our achievements in all these areas and further expanding our long-standing cooperation." Belarus does not threaten anyone, but only defends its interests, he said, referring to "the madmen in the West" who have launched an economic war.
Meanwhile, speculation about Lukashenko's health is mounting. According to opposition politician Pavel Latushko, the Belarusian president is "obviously very seriously ill". (LRG)