Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko no longer is in a position to have influence over Russian military actions in his country because of his dependence on Moscow, U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher said on Wednesday.
Russia and Belarus are planning a record number of military exercises this year, according to some experts. The defense ministries have signed a five-year strategic partnership agreement and there have been reports that the two countries are planning to open three new joint military bases.
"It is Lukashenko, his willingness to increase dependency on Russia in every possible sphere, that has brought him to the point of being in no position, really, to barely have a say in what it is Russia would decide to do militarily," Fisher told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told the hearing that Lukashenko's escalating crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and independent media "is turning my country into the North Korea of Europe – non-transparent, unpredictable and dangerous."
Tsikhanouskaya, widely regarded as the victor in a 2020 election that Lukashenko claims to have won, also called on the United States to expand sanctions against businessmen and state-run enterprises that "finance the regime."