Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya will conclude her trip to the Czech Republic today.
Tikhanovskaya’s visit comes amid heightened EU-Belarus and Czech-Russian tensions, with Moscow constituting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s most influential backer. During her stopover, Tikhanovskaya met with Czech President Milos Zeman, Prime Minister Andrej Babis and addressed the Czech Senate.
Expect both Prague and Brussels to increase their support for Tikhanovskaya and adopt an even harder line against Minsk. Babis’ statement that he believes Tikhanovskaya is Belarus’ legitimate president hints that the EU may consider recognizing her as the country’s head of state. Brussels may also opt to halt the transport of Belarussian goods across EU borders, inflicting a profound toll on Minsk’s economy which counts Brussels as a major trading partner.
Despite Brussels’ determination to punish Lukashenko, it is unlikely EU coerciveness will dislodge his regime in the short- to medium-term. Successive waves of sanctions limit the EU’s ability to exert increased pressure on Minsk. Furthermore, robust Russian backing for Lukashenko will shield him from Brussels’ ire. Thus, it is unlikely Lukashenko will be forced from power absent an EU-Russia detente that sees Moscow curtail its support for Minsk or a falling out between Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sinan is an analyst for the Current Developments Team and a regular contributor to the Daily Brief. A student of transatlantic affairs, he specialises in political, economic and energy affairs of Europe and the Middle East.