Foreign citizens urged to leave Russia and Belarus asap
    Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  16 February 2023 - 16:13

    Huseyn Safarov

    The French government strongly advised its citizens not to travel to Belarus. Following France, Canada urged its compatriots not to visit Belarus and those who are already there to leave immediately. It is noteworthy that Brazil also urged its citizens to return from Russia and Belarus.

    The website of the US embassy even published a warning saying that US citizens should refrain from travelling to Russia because of the "unpredictable consequences" of the conflict in Ukraine, and those who are already there should leave the country immediately. According to Sky News, French authorities have issued a similar appeal to their citizens as Russia has launched a new offensive in Ukraine.

    Caliber.Az asked Yevhen Magda, director of the Institute for World Policy (Kyiv), and Mikhail Neyzhmakov, a Russian political analyst at the Political and Economic Communications Agency to comment on the situation.

    According to Magda, recommendations of the foreign ministries to their citizens to leave Belarus and Russia are primarily related to the anniversary of Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

    "Diplomatic agencies do not always mean any real threat in these matters. This is a fairly standard practice. In general, it should be welcomed because staying on the territory of the aggressor and coaggressor state is, in my opinion, quite dangerous for citizens of any civilized country," the Ukrainian expert said.

    Magda also said that he did not see in the warning of Western diplomatic missions a direct threat of an invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine from Belarus. At least, not the same as the one that arose on February 24 last year. However, according to him, the West is taking certain measures and wants to avoid taking its own citizens hostage.

    In his turn, M. Neizhmakov supposes that one of the reasons why the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France recommended its citizens to "immediately leave" Belarus was the closure of the border crossing with Poland in Bobrovniki.

    "That is, perhaps, among other things, the French Foreign Ministry fears that despite the currently open borders of Belarus with Lithuania and Latvia, as well as the continued operation of the Brest - Terespol border crossing with Poland, the opportunities for foreign citizens to leave Belarusian territory may further diminish in the future.

    In its turn, the US Embassy in Moscow brings a number of arguments for why American citizens should not come to Russia or leave the country - from "limited possibilities of the Embassy to help the US citizens in Russia" to difficulties with receiving wire transfers from the USA and, again, with leaving the country ("options of commercial flights are extremely limited and often not available in a short time"), - our interlocutor says.

    However, according to Neizhmakov, there could be other ulterior motives behind such statements by US and European diplomats.

    "Actually, the US Embassy in Moscow explicitly mentioned the risk of terrorist attacks; perhaps the same potential threats to Belarus' infrastructure were meant by representatives of France. Furthermore, it cannot be ruled out that should hostilities in the framework of the Russia-Ukraine conflict intensify, new sanctions of the Western powers against Russia and Belarus may in one way or another further complicate opportunities for foreign nationals to leave these countries.

    However, both the transfer of hostilities to the territory of Belarus and the direct involvement of the armed forces of that country in the hostilities on Russia's side are unlikely for the time being. It is clear that an offensive by the Russian armed forces has already been launched from the Belarusian territory in February and March 2022, and the airbases on the territory of the republic are used by the Russian air force. Nevertheless, Minsk has until recently, at least at the level of rhetoric, tried to keep a certain distance with regard to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. One can recall the statement made by Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that 'it would be more appropriate... to sit down at the negotiating table and negotiate'. An indirect indication of Minsk's intention to maintain a similar line is evidenced by Alexander Lukashenko's reference, following the December talks with Vladimir Putin, to the tension 'primarily in the west' of the borders of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, which many took as a signal of the Belarusian president's intention to recall his unwillingness to sink into conflict 'in the south' beyond certain limits.

    Furthermore, although the relationship between Minsk and Kyiv was difficult until 2022, it is telling that diplomatic relations between Belarus and Ukraine were never severed. Probably one of the reasons is that Kyiv sees Minsk as another channel for non-public contacts with the Kremlin, and perhaps hopes to achieve some kind of direct informal agreements with Belarus in the future," the Russian political analyst concluded.



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