Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian has dismissed comparisons between continuing anti-government protests in Belarus and a popular uprising that toppled Armenia’s former government in 2018.
The mass protests in the capital Minsk and other parts of Belarus were sparked by a disputed election the official results of which gave a landslide victory to Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian president. Lukashenko denies opposition allegations that he rigged the August 9 ballot to prolong his 26-year rule.
Some commentators see glaring similarities the Belarusian demonstrations and nationwide protests which were triggered by former Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s attempt to hold on to power after completing his second and final presidential term in April 2018. The peaceful protests known as the “Velvet Revolution” paralyzed much of Armenia, forced Sarkisian to resign and brought protest leader Nikol Pashinian to power.
Mnatsakanian rejected such parallels in an interview with the Russian Interfax news agency published late on Monday.
“Armenia followed its own path and it’s not quite correct to draw parallels based on that,” he said. “True, there might be some common parameters, but on the whole these are different situations.”
“The most important thing is to accept and acknowledge that a solution to the issue is the prerogative of the people of Belarus. We very much hope that this situation will be resolved peacefully,” he added.
Asked whether Armenia recognizes Lukashenko as Belarus’s legitimate leader, Mnatsakanian said: “Prime Minister Pashinian congratulated the president of Belarus … We intend to continue working with Belarus in all directions both within the framework of bilateral relations and in international formats.”
Pashinian’s congratulatory message to Lukashenko was denounced by Armenian civil society activists and opposition figures. Some of them accused the prime minister of turning a blind eye to a brutal crackdown on Belarusian protesters launched by security forces right after the disputed election. Pashinian’s political allies defended the congratulation, implicitly citing Armenia’s geopolitical interests.
Both Armenia and Belarus are members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Eurasian Economic Union. Russia is increasingly showing support for Lukashenko despite President Vladimir Putin’s uneasy relationship with the Belarusian strongman.
Faced with the biggest challenge yet to his rule, Lukashenko has accused the West of funding the protests and massing NATO forces on Belarusian frontiers. He has said he might need military assistance from Russia and the CSTO.
Mnatsakanian would not be drawn on a possible CSTO intervention in ongoing developments in Belarus. He argued that the Belarusian government has not requested it so far.