Belarus is the model for Putin’s plan for Ukraine and further expansion

The Russian leader has his sights set on reclaiming former Soviet states

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Columnists

February 18, 2022 - 3:39 PM

Opposition supporters carry the former white-red-white flag of Belarus as they march during a rally to protest the country's inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on September 27, 2020. Thousands of people were imprisoned for protesting Lukashenko's reelection, which was deemed a fraud by outside election officials.(-/TUT.BY/AFP via Getty Images)

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Three cheers to the White House and NATO for calling out Kremlin lies this week about withdrawing troops from Ukraine’s borders — along with falsehoods meant to justify a possible new attack on eastern Ukraine.

Yet even as the world focuses on Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, the Russian leader has managed to surreptitiously swallow neighboring Belarus, while the West wasn’t paying sufficient attention. Indeed, Belarus has become the role model for what Putin would like to do with Ukraine and other sovereign states that were once under Soviet rule.

“Belarus is a laboratory for Putin,” I’m told by Vytis Jurkonis, an expert on Belarus at Vilnius University, over breakfast at my hotel in the Lithuanian capital. In Vilnius, officials are watching closely what new experiments Putin conducts.

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