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6 Aug, 2020 18:25

'He won't hold onto power until 2036': Lukashenko ‘100% guarantees’ that Putin won't be Russia's leader for life

'He won't hold onto power until 2036': Lukashenko ‘100% guarantees’ that Putin won't be Russia's leader for life

The leader of Russia’s number one ally has told Ukrainian TV that he doesn’t believe Vladimir Putin will remain in the Kremlin for another 16 years, a prospect made possible by recent constitutional changes.

Putin “will never be president until 2036, I guarantee you one hundred percent,” Belarus’ Aleksandr Lukashenko told Kiev-based journalist Dmitry Gordon. “[Putin] will not hold onto power with his half-dead hands, he will find a way for a person, or people, to come to power who will continue the development of Russia along its current path.” 

The Russian president is currently 67, a decade younger than American presidential candidate Joe Biden. Some analysts, particularly in the West, believe the recent amendments to Russia’s constitution were designed to keep him in the Kremlin ‘for life,’ but most serious Russian experts think the intention was for Putin to avoid ‘lame duck’ status ahead of the 2024 elections, and to keep his options open. 

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Putin himself has not excluded the possibility of running for president again. “Let’s see, we’ll see,” he said in June. He also clarified that he had not decided yet, but previously explained that the “re-setting” of his terms in office was planned to avoid the focus on his successor distracting from government business. 

In January, Putin said he didn’t want to return to the Soviet-era system where rulers carried on until the end without a proper succession strategy. The USSR had a series of leaders such as Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko who died in office, leading to a scramble by their top officials to grab power in the aftermath. 

“It would be very worrying to return to the situation we had in the mid-1980s when state leaders stayed in power, one by one, until the end of their days and left office without ensuring the necessary conditions for a transition of power,” Putin told a war veteran who suggested he remain in the Kremlin as long as possible. “So, thanks, but I think it would be better not to return to that situation.”

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Lukashenko also said he has never experienced any coercion from Putin.

“He has never made attempts to put pressure on me. He’s been well aware that this would be totally useless,” he added, “I will always agree to compromise, but when it concerns the country, or if I see that it is not fair, it will be unacceptable to me.”

The Belarusian leader, who faces into an election at the weekend amid major political tensions in Minsk, also outlined the sort of sibling-like relationship he’s had with his Russian counterpart. “I regard Putin as my elder brother, and I sincerely believe that he is my brother,” he told Gordon.

“Not in the sense of one in command as a senior and the other as junior. He is really like an elder brother in terms of age and [political] weight… An elder brother’s role is to help, support and advise. Not to make you stumble, but to provide support.”

Lukashenko acknowledged that certain tensions in his relationship with Putin did exist. "Yes, there are certain tensions, because both of us are persons of strong character, if you don’t mind my saying so,” he said.

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