Lukashenko Disappoints, Says Would Decree Mandatory Vaccinations If Facing Russia’s Situation
What is going on?
Last year Lukashenko not only rejected lockdowns but even called Russia’s own lockdown a blunder and did it while he had Putin on call.
Now, as Russian regions have started the experiment of mandatory vaccinations, things are different. Lukashenko says there is no need for such in Belarus, but also states that if he was facing Russia’s situation he would have no qualms about ordering the same:
The hospital personnel said that Russia has recently witnessed a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and that the Russian authorities have been taking steps to introduce a mandatory vaccination. In this regard, the head of state was asked whether there were plans to introduce compulsory vaccination of workers against COVID-19 in Belarus.
“If such a situation arises, this principle will certainly be introduced. Thank God, there is no such need yet,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. The president added that he hopes that this outbreak of the coronavirus in Russia would soon be over.
Interpret that as you will. The major reason Lukashenko rejected a lockdown was that it would have spelled economic ruin (and vassalage to the IMF). Mandatory vaccinations, of course, spell no such consequences.
Interestingly the COVID picture of Moscow and Belarus couldn’t be more different. The 12-million city of Moscow is lately reporting around 8,000 new COVID “cases” each day, while the figure for the 10-million Belarus is around 500. (In other words, Lukashenko is already endorsing the principle of mandatory vaccinations at a time when he knows that almost certainly Belarus won’t be in the same position. Pretty strange for a politician.)
At the same time, another thing that is changed since 2020 is that there has been a definite break between Lukashenko and the West. He is actively being targeted for regime change, dealing with the aftermath of the Ryanair affair, and can expect the West to keep piling on more and more sanctions warfare. In other words, today Lukashenko is far, far more dependent on Russia than he was a year ago.
At the same time, it is clear the mandatory vaccination is a touchy subject for Putin for a variety of reasons. It is unpopular, which is especially inconvenient since there are party elections scheduled for September. It also represents an embarrassing U-turn for Putin where he is now presiding over a policy he had repeatedly ruled out as “impossible and impractical” and “counterproductive.”
Just how inconvenient is the situation for Putin is seen from the fact that he has allowed others to take the lead on the policy while he has tried to stay in the background. In other words — if Lukashenko were to publicly criticize Russian COVID policies as he had done in 2020 this would certainly win him no favors in Moscow.
But Lukashenko has done more than just kept mum. He has defended the principle of vaccine mandates as decreed in Russia.
The same Lukashenko in April stated that he has no intention of getting vaccinated himself because he still had antibodies from an asymptomatic infection last summer. In the same breath he added that he wasn’t getting influenza shots before either, and emphasized the primacy of healthy living as opposed to pharmaceutical interventions:
“A virus triggers chronic diseases, including diseases that we sometimes do not see. Viruses will not go away, I don’t know what kind of viruses we will get in the future, therefore we need to take a better care of ourselves and our lives. Work more, eat adequately. I have said many times that we need to eat our own food, grown on our land, and not some kind of overseas foodstuffs. In other words, people need to reconsider their lifestyles,” the president noted.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he has no plans to get vaccinated yet, considering that a recent blood test showed a sufficient amount of antibodies after he recovered from COVID-19. The head of state added that he had never been vaccinated against influenza before, either.
So either Lukashenko’s views have evolved quite a bit in a short amount of time, or else he is doing PR for his friend in the Kremlin. A friend who is in a tricky situation at home and who incidentally is backing Lukashenko in his very own unenviable Ryanair situation. Given how much better Belarus (which never locked down) is doing on the COVID front than Moscow we’re probably never going to find which for certain.