Lukashenko gives Russian Space Chief Pork Fat as Gift

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko kept his gift giving simple when he met the head of Russia’s space agency.

During a visit to Star City in the Moscow region, where the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center is located, Lukashenko gave the director general of Roscosmos, Yury Borisov, a traditional regional delicacy.

“This is Shoigu’s favorite salo,” Lukashenko said, referring to Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s preferred version of the cured slabs of pork fat considered one of Ukraine’s favorite dishes, which is also popular throughout eastern Europe.

It was a far cry from the tractor that Lukashenko reportedly gave Vladimir Putin for his birthday on October 7. The Belarusian leader also gave Borisov some freshly baked bread on Saturday, telling him, “this was baked this morning,” Russian news agency RIA reported. .

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko at the Palace of Independence, December 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus. Lukashenko is in Russia where he will meet with Vladimir Putin during a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) starting December 26, 2022.

This week, Borisov’s predecessor in charge of the state’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, had a shrapnel lodged in his spine after he was reportedly wounded in a shelling in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

The war in Ukraine is the context for Lukashenko’s visit to Russia where he will attend a summit of the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in St Petersburg on December 26 and 27, during which he will meet with Putin.

This comes only days after the leaders spoke in Minsk in a meeting that sparked speculation over what it might mean for Belarus’ involvement in the war.

There has been a build up of Russian troops and equipment in Belarus, which Putin used as a staging post for an attack on Ukraine early in the war.

So far Lukashenko has avoided direct involvement in Putin’s war but Moscow is said to be setting the conditions for a renewed invasion of northern Ukraine, possibly aimed at Kyiv, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Franak Viačorka, chief political adviser to exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said that there was both a symbolic and practical aspect to the meetings between Putin and Lukashenko.

“For Putin, Lukashenko is a very useful ally,” he told Newsweek“He is the only ally in the war and for him it is important to create the image of a coalition for international audiences.”

Viačorka said that Lukashenko “is very obedient to Putin and does everything he wants” and the Belarusian leader relies on his Russian counterpart to preserve his power, especially after widely criticized elections in 2020.

“Lukashenko is interested in having the status quo in having the war… because the world’s attention is on Ukraine and not on Belarus so he can intensify repressions.”

Newsweek has contacted the Belarusian foreign ministry for comment.

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