After a recent meeting and love fest between the leaders of Belarus and Russia, which seemed to calm relations between the two Slavic brothers, tensions have broken out again between Minsk and Moscow. The issue now seems to be an order from Russia to ban certain fruit imports from Belarus, to which Minsk responded by shutting down a Russian gas pipeline to Europe which transits its territory.
Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service banned the import of apples and pears it says are embargoed EU fruits starting Friday. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko compared the import ban to sanctions and ordered his deputy prime minister to close the Russian pipeline for repairs, reported The Moscow Times.
Moscow denied ‘sanctioning’ Belarus. “We cannot agree with Alexander Grigoryevich. Russia does not impose any sanctions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to TASS.
These squabbles are only symptoms of the underlying problem — Moscow wants Belarus (White Russia) back under its influence, and the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, has grown closer to the European Union and his people like him for it.
Another backdrop to this story are rumors Russian President Vladimir Putin, in order to achieve a constitutionally-impossible 5th term, could absorb Belarus into the Russian Federation, technically created a ‘new country’ from the current Union State, a light union between the two nations, and render the old Russian constitution invalid, allowing Putin to stay in power.