Belarus minister who acted as secret go-between with the West ‘WAS killed by Kremlin assassins’ and ‘shaken’ dictator Lukashenko now fears for his life, reports claim
Vladimir Makei ‘passed away suddenly’, Belarusian media reported Sunday, but gave no cause for Makei’s death or any explanation of the circumstances
Makei, 64, was due to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday
He was next traveling to Poland to meet a host of Western diplomats
Some opposition figures in Russia and Belarus have posited the Belarusian security service could well have been involved in Makei’s deaths
Several sources claim the was assassinated on orders from Kremlin
Belarus’s foreign minister Vladimir Makei was poisoned in a Kremlin sting operation, extraordinary new reports have claimed.
The veteran diplomat died suddenly yesterday amid claims he was in secret contact with the West concerning the war in Ukraine and preventing Belarus from being incorporated into Russia by Vladimir Putin.
The belief in some quarters is that Vladimir Putin desires to take control of the Belarus military and the elimination of long term foreign minister Vladimir Makei would help sever relations between Belarusian leader Lukashenko and Western powers.
A video emerged showing the 64-year-old former spy who has served as foreign minister since 2012,looking healthy on a Belarus military cargo plane last week shortly before he died. He wasn’t known to suffer from any chronic illness.
Some reports say he had a heart attack and that his death has ‘shaken’ president Alexander Lukashenko, who now fears for his own safety.
The autocratic leader of Russia’s neighbor and closest ally in the war with Ukraine has even replaced his cooks and servants, fearing assassination by Moscow, it is claimed.
Exiled Russian opposition figure and fierce Putin critic, oligarch Leonid Nevzlin alleges that Makei ‘died as a result of poisoning developed in an FSB special laboratory’.
Citing sources ‘close to the Russian special services’, Nevzlin claims that, ‘The clinical picture in such cases corresponds to death from stroke or heart failure.’
Makei was this week due to attend an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Poland to meet key Western politicians and officials – a session from which Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was banned.
Nevzlin claimed that the poisoning theory ‘is supported by the fact that the 64-year-old official had no health problems, was leading an active lifestyle and was making plans.
‘When he suddenly got a heart condition, he did not go to doctors as he had not experienced such problems before and did not give any importance to the pain,’ Nevzlin said.
He quoted a Russian toxicologist, saying: ‘It is very easy to poison a man so that everyone thinks he has died of natural causes.
‘It is enough to disrupt the balance of enzymes in his body – the substances that ensure all processes without exception, from fluttering eyelashes to breathing.’
Nevzlin added: ‘The death of Makei, essentially the second [most important] man in the state, has caused panic in Belarusian nomenklatura circles.
‘But dictator Lukashenko is the most shaken. He has ordered the replacement of his cooks, servants and guards.
‘Lukashenko’s children have been given extra security. The dictator does not trust anyone.’
Nevzlin concluded that Lukashenko fears his supposed ally Putin is arranging ‘a magnificent funeral’ for him.
Makei’s alleged elimination severed Belarus’s remaining relationships with Western powers, according to Telegram channel General SVR.
It was ‘planned, prepared and implemented on the personal initiative of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin,’ the dissident Russian channel alleged.
‘No-one really hides the fact that this is murder from Lukashenko.
‘The action was demonstrative and aimed at disrupting Lukashenko’s separate negotiations with the West and China.’
Makei ‘assured his [Western] counterparts, and not without success, that Lukashenko was actually held hostage by Putin and forced to commit ”unpopular” acts under pressure from the Russian president and in order to preserve the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus.’
Russian opposition politician and human rights activist, Lev Shlosberg, 59, added: ‘It is very difficult, almost impossible, to believe in the natural nature of the causes of the death of Vladimir Makei.’
The foreign minister’s 44-year-old widow Vera Polyakova-Makei, an actress and head of Minsk Youth Theatre, is yet to comment on the death of her husband.
Lukashenko issued only a short statement offering condolences to his family and friends.
Offering a contrary view, Belarusian political scientist Aleksey Dzermant has denied that Makei was assassinated: ‘There are no facts that would give reason to say so. Moreover, he had a sufficient degree of protection and security.
‘The causes of his death are natural,’ Dzermant said.
Despite Dzermant ‘s claims, pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov, also claimed ‘all the cooks and service personnel have been replaced’ in Lukashenko’s residence.
‘Sometimes it needs to be done. A good reason to do it now,’ he said.
He added: ‘The Belarusian authorities have rejected versions of the poisoning of Foreign Minister Makei.
‘They said that he started having heart problems. But the sudden death of a rather young, 64-year-old, prominent politician created suspicions of murder.’
Makei had held his post since 2012 and wasn’t known to suffer from any chronic illness.
He was seen in seemingly good health at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Yerevan, Armenia, just days ago.
His shock death came one day before a scheduled meeting on Monday with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, amid Russian suspicions over his back channel liaising with Western interlocutors.
On Tuesday, Makei was set to travel to the Polish city of Lodz, where he was invited to attend an OSCE council meeting with Western officials.
His invitation came as a surprise given Belarus’s complicity in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, given that Lavrov was not invited.
Before the presidential elections and mass anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020, Makei had been one of the initiators of efforts to improve Belarus’s relations with the West and had criticized Russia.
However, he changed his stance after the protests were brutally quelled, saying they were inspired by agents of the West.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Makei doubled down on the pro-Kremlin stance, claiming the West had provoked the war and that the Ukrainian authorities should agree to the Russian terms of peace.
A few days before the start of the war, Makei promised that there would be no attack on Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. A few days later, Russian troops proved that he was wrong. In February, despite Makei’s assurances to the West that it would not happen, Putin used Belarus as a staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian command used Belarusian territory to maintain the supply lines to its forces in Ukraine, launch strikes on Ukrainian cities, train troops and treat injured fighters.
A statement given by Makei to the United Nations Security Council in September encapsulated the strange position occupied by Belarus in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
‘Belarus is referred to as an ”accomplice of the aggressor” or even a party to the conflict. We have said and continue to say: Belarus has never advocated the war. But we are not traitors either,’ he said in a reference to Belarus’s close alliance with Russia.
‘We have allied commitments, and we are strictly following and will follow the spirit and letter of international treaties to which we are party.’
As foreign minister Makei led his country’s outreach to the West, which Lukashenko had tried playing off against Russia in a bid to maintain political power at home.
A reserve colonel in the army who was fluent in English and German, Makei was one of the few senior Belarusian officials who could move between nationalist hard-liners and European diplomatic circles, making him a valuable member of Lukashenko’s team, said Pavel Slunkin, a Belarusian political analyst who had worked under the late foreign minister.
“Through him [Makei], Lukashenko had found a path to the West,” Slunkin said.
However Makei’s diplomatic efforts were undermined by Mr. Lukashenko’s decision to repress the opposition and violently crack down on mass protests following contested elections in 2020. Consequently, for many Belarusians the foreign minister symbolized a climate of gradual political change that never materialized.
That apathy increased as the wave of Western sanctions in response to Lukashenko’s crackdown made Belarus increasingly reliant on Russia and a key Putin ally.
Many in Belarus fear that their country is gradually moving toward direct confrontation with their southern neighbor as Moscow of late has been pressuring the Belarusian leader for greater involvement in the faltering military campaign next door.
The state news agency, Belta, on Saturday published a one-line story saying that the president had offered condolences to Makei’s family, but Lukashenko has not spoken out about the death of the man long held as his closest ally.
The president has yet to announce a replacement as the deceased foreign minister. Analysts believe the choice could offer an indication of how far he is willing to push his relationship with Putin.