Belarusian Cossacks—An Option for Putin?

05 Oct 2020

(Eurasia Daily Monitor) Due to certain superficial similarities between the ongoing post-election demonstrations in Belarus and the EuroMaidan protests in Kyiv in 2013–2014, some commentators have speculated about the possibility of “another Crimea” in Minsk. President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian territory six and a half years ago temporarily boosted his popularity in Russia and arguably delayed the integration of Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic security community. And now, the argument goes, facing extended anti-Kremlin protests in the Russian Far East and general popular dissatisfaction with the direction of the country (see EDM, August 3September 14), Putin might want to repeat such a move in Belarus, which would ostensibly have the added benefit of preventing Minsk from moving into the Western orbit. Numerous important differences exist between Russia’s two East Slavic neighbors, which make any sort of Belarusian Crimea scenario highly unlikely (see EDM, September 10). And yet, a little-known factor common to Ukraine and Belarus—namely the existence of Cossack groups in both countries—suggests that the hypothetical annexation threat should not be entirely dismissed out of hand. [...]

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