Famous blogger Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan will create serious problems both for Baku and for Minsk, experts say
Russian and Israeli diplomats are working to get permission to see Alexander Lapshin, member of Knesset Kseniya Svetlova, who actively participates in the struggle to free the blogger, told RIA Novosti.
According to her, the Israeli consul is not allowed to meet Lapshin. “The Israeli Consulate is working on that. I know that the Russian Consulate is also trying to get access to him,” Svetlova said.
Meanwhile, commenting on Lapshin’s extradition to Baku, Russian business website BFM writes that Russian citizen Alexander Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan is an unprecedented case and one of Belarus’s unfriendly acts towards Russia. Oil and gas dispute, which is slightly being politicized, threats with sharp deterioration of trade and economic relations between the two countries.
“It is an unprecedented case, and it is clear that it caused such a reaction in Moscow. This is a certain diplomatic demarche, in other words, we have to study the case against the sharp deterioration of the Russian-Belarusian relations, energy conflicts, which are now emerging between Minsk and Moscow,” Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), said highlighting that there may be quite serious consequences.
In his words, there must be at least a tough political statement on inadmissibility of such kind of measures, and it may be followed by some negotiations, which can help to achieve compromise.
“I think Lukashenko takes a serious political risk, he has to realize that the Russian authorities do not usually make concessions under pressure, in other words, it is not convenient to speak to Moscow in that language. For Belarus, the possible alliance with Azerbaijan can in no way replace the partnership with Moscow because of economic, geopolitical, historic, and other reasons,” Kortunov emphasized.
In his turn, Andrey Suzdaltsev – deputy dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of Higher School of Economics (HSE) and expert on CIS countries – told BFM that Lukashenko has always sought to “sell” people.
“It is hardly the first time that he had traded with the West with political prisoners and released people for some indulgence and concession by the West. Then he arrested new people and released them again. It is kind of a trade. However, recently his ‘trade’ has become systematic,” Suzdaltsev said.
The expert noted that Belarus gave the blogger to Azerbaijan in a quite demonstrative way, and Russia’s opinion on the case was completely ignored. “In other words, it was done on purpose. Lukashenko needs all that for oil and money,” Suzdaltsev highlighted.
Opposition politician Stanislav Shushkevich, former head of Supreme Soviet of Belarus, also thinks that Lukashenko needs the Azerbaijani oil.
“Lukashenko will be pleased to do something kind for Azerbaijan hoping to be praised by the Azerbaijani authorities, and he will have a trump card for improving the situation by receiving the Azerbaijani oil. It is quite clear that the case has political nature,” he said.
According to political scientists, Moscow’s response will not be far behind. It is noted that the situation is getting worse also because of Belarus’s gas debt.
Meanwhile, the Caucasian Knot writes that the famous blogger’s detention in Minsk coincided with another cold snap in the Russian-Belarusian relations. Although Belarus is one of Russia’s main allies being a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and CSTO military alliance, noticeable tension emerged between Moscow and Minsk in 2016-2017. The conflict began, when the Belarusian side tried to reconsider the price of gas supplied by Russia and pay 73 dollars for thousand cubic meters, instead of 132. Besides, the Belarusian president stated that he had agreed with alternative suppliers for oil supply, including Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, Haqqin.az writes that LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky condemned the decision of Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko to extradite Russian citizen Alexander Lapshin to Azerbaijan.
“Belarus ruled to extradite Lapshin to Azerbaijan; he faces eight years of imprisonment there for visiting Karabakh. It is idiotic, he has the right to be where he wants, he is a Russian citizen,” the parliamentarian said.
In his words, “Great Belarus” gave the Russian citizen to “throw to the wolves in Baku.” “It is very good, partisan Lukashenko achieved great success,” said Zhirinovsky ironically.
In his turn, commenting Lapshin’s extradition on the website of the newspaper Vzglyad, Andrey Epifantsev said that it is a very dangerous precedent not only for the post-Soviet space, but also for the whole world in general. According to him, if the organizers of the case get away with it, various states can begin to persecute dozens and hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens across the world on the basis of queries to Interpol because of their visits to “gray areas” and give them to other countries, which claim that territories.
The expert thinks that if Baku treats Lapshin with dignity and respect, and “does not try to do anything like that any more, as if in a nightmare,” only unpleasant feeling can be left after the case.
“However, if Lapshin becomes the second Ueldanov, who has been in prison in Azerbaijan for more than half-year (on other charges), Russia has to answer with tough repressive measures, which will make senseless Baku’s any attempt of that kind in the future. It may be a quite significant change in Nagorno-Karabakh’s status-quo in favor of Armenia,” Epifantsev said.
In his opinion, Israel acts in a similar way, because this case is unacceptable. Azerbaijan is similarly vulnerable in the relations with Israel, which is very demanding to such cases.
Alexander Lapshin writes a blog in which he records his travels throughout the world. On December 13 he and his wife arrived in the Belarus capital, Minsk. A day later, Lapshin wrote on his Facebook page that he had been arrested at the request of Azerbaijan. He faces sentence from five to eight years of imprisonment.
After his visits to NKR in 2011 and 2012, Lapshin’s name was placed on Baku government’s blacklist. The Azerbaijani prosecutor general issued an international warrant for Lapshin’s arrest not only because of his visits to NKR, but also because of his posts, in which he expressed his support for the independence of the region.
“Mr. Lapshin received a consular service by our diplomats. We know he is also a citizen of Israel. We look to take all measures to solve the situation with due respect for the rights of a Russian citizen, who is a citizen of Israel at the same time,” the minister noted.
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