US diplomat to visit Russia, Lithuania for talks on Belarus
Stephen Biegun, Deputy Secretary of State, is set to visit Lithuania and Russia in few days to settle the Belarus conflict as the United Sates seeks to quench the crisis that arose as result of election issues in the country, according to sources on Friday.
According to a source, the Deputy Secretary would, in few days, leave for Moscow and Vilniu, the Lithuanian capital, where Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian opposition candidate, has been hiding following Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters who rejected his claimed landslide August election victory.
Protesters have rejected Lukashenko’s win in the August election on the premise that there were cases of irregularities and are therefore demanding a redo of the election.
The president has, as a response, launched crackdown on thousands of protesters some of whom were teargassed, beaten, with many arrested and jailed.
The United States and the European Union have condemned the election for a number of irregularities associated with it.
Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, on Thursday called on Lukashenko to open talks with the opposition using international help.
However, Lukashenko has sought assistance from Russia over the matter, but Moscow said on Wednesday that it was not the right time to offer any help.
One other source said on condition of anonymity that Biegun’s message to Belaru would be more likely centered on the need to desescalate tension in the country or prevent Russia intervention in Belarus.
“I would guess the administration is trying to dissuade Moscow from either intervening on its own or using its influence with Lukashenko to encourage him to have a more violent crackdown,” the source said.
However, experts have said that the United States is willing to take a huge role in finding a permanent resolution to the crisis in Belarus.
Speaking about what the protesters actually wanted, experts said that the protesters do not have the
intention to maintain a closer tie with the West, rather they want the election to be repeated.
Jonathan Katz of the U.S. German Marshall Fund, a former U.S. official and expert on Eastern Europe, said that apart from finding a resolution to the crises, there are many issues that could get the U.S. interested in the situation.
“From the U.S. perspective, there’s a whole host of issues both in terms of human rights and democracy, but there’s also a security component,” he said.