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Former Belarusian presidential candidate claims country is ‘being sold’ to Russia

The chairman of the civic group European Belarus, Andrei Sannikov (pictured above), who ran against Aleksander Lukashenko in an election in 2010, has claimed that the country’s incumbent president “might” agree to join a union with Russia if doing so would keep him in power.

Speaking in an interview with Foreign Policy (FP), the former presidential contender, who spent 16 months in prison on charges considered politically motivated, noted that it was the Belarusian president himself who had created the idea of a union, since he had plans to become its president after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“[Mr] Lukashenko started his rule by destroying Belarusian identity and continues to do so. By taking away language, culture and history, he is already selling Belarus, piece by piece, to Russia,” Mr Sannikov told FP, saying that the Belarusian president will not fight for the country’s independence, only his “personal power”.

Mr Sannikov believes that the government’s move to criticise the Russian ambassador, who made controversial comments about the independence of Belarus which were later dismissed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, was carefully planned by Mr Lukashenko.

Mr Sannikov added that he would consider running for president again if there were fair and free elections, calling on the West to help Belarus achieve these goals.

Last year, Russia expressed an interest in reviving the 1996 Union Treaty, an agreement intended to form a supranational state between the two countries with one leader. Doing so would allow Vladimir Putin to stay in office after he completes his current presidential term, the last he is permitted under the terms of the Russian constitution.