BEIJING — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, is expected to travel to Beijing for the start of a three-day state visit on Tuesday as geopolitical tensions rise following the conflict. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China said the visit was “an opportunity to promote the further development of comprehensive cooperation between the two countries,” but there are growing concerns that China is considering providing military assistance to Russia. , which US officials say will have dire consequences.
China calls the US accusations a smear campaign, says it is committed to promoting peace talks and accuses Washington and its allies of fueling the conflict by supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons.
“The US has no right to point a finger at China-Russia relations. We will never accept US pressure and coercion,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said Monday at a daily briefing.
Beijing claims to remain neutral in the year-long war, but also says it has “unlimited friendship” with Russia and refuses to criticize Moscow’s invasion, or even call it a So. They have accused the US and NATO of inciting conflict and condemned sanctions against Russia and entities seen as supporting their military efforts.
Last week, those sanctions were expanded to include a Chinese company called Spacety China, which provided satellite imagery of Ukraine to affiliates of the Wagner Group, a military contractor Russia’s private sector is owned by a close associate of President Vladimir Putin. A subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Spacety China is also targeted.
Belarus has strongly supported Moscow and allowed its territory to be used as a springboard for its first invasion of Ukraine a year ago. Belarus continues to host Russian troops, warplanes and other weapons.
China has long maintained close ties with Lukashenko, Belarus’s only president since the position was established in 1994. Lukashenko has quelled 2020 protests over his controversial re-election his controversy in a vote that the opposition and Western countries consider fraudulent.
Despite its brutality, Lukashenko’s repression did not seem to end all opposition activities.
According to activists, on Sunday, Belarusian guerrillas attacked a military airbase hosting Russian warplanes outside the Belarusian capital Minsk.
Belarusian opposition organization BYPOL, in an online messaging app channel run by activists, said an A-50 early warning and control aircraft was severely damaged in the attack at the base. Machulishchy base near Minsk. The activists provided no evidence to support the claims, which cannot be independently verified. Belarusian and Russian officials were not available for comment, but Lukashenko called on top military and security officials on Monday to tighten discipline.
Also on Monday, prosecutors demanded 19-year prison sentences for exiled opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Pavel Latushka, as well as fines of $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, in against the backdrop of the ongoing crackdown on dissent in the former Soviet republic.
Tsikhanouskaya, Latushka and three other opposition figures are being tried in absentia in Minsk on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, founding and leading extremist groups, inciting hatred and harming national security. . The prosecution also recommended a 12-year sentence for Maryya Maroz, Volha Kavalkova and Siarhei Dylevski. All five people left Belarus after unprecedented mass protests in 2020.