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Russia-Ukraine War: 7 European Foreign Ministers Meet Zelensky in Kyiv

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A senior Belarusian official who led a failed attempt to dissolve diplomatic ties between the Belarusian government and Western countries died suddenly over the weekend, according to Belarusian state media and Belarusian government agencies.

For ten years, Vladimir McKay served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, a key geopolitical battleground between Russia and the West. State media reported on Saturday that McKay had died at the age of 64, but did not specify the cause of his death.

Despite a lukewarm response from government officials and state media, McKay is one of the most prominent Belarusian government officials of our time and one of the oldest supporters of the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. .

Not unusual under Lukashenko’s secretive government, the lack of details has fueled a flurry of speculation among media commentators about the cause of McCay’s death.

As foreign minister, Mr. McCay led his country’s outreach to the West, where Mr. Lukashenko tried to compete with Russia to maintain political power at home.

Valery Sakashchik, a former Belarusian military officer and defense adviser to now-exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, told Ukrainian radio on Monday that McCay had been “deformed” by years of service in Lukashenko’s government. But it was still “definitely a bridge of sorts with the West.”

Foreign diplomats who have worked with Mr. Makey over the years have identified him as one of the few high-ranking Belarusian officials who can hold civil conversations with Western leaders while maintaining Mr. Lukashenko’s trust. I remember

“Makei has been part of Lukashenko’s inner circle from the beginning, first as chief of staff and later as foreign minister,” said Vigaudas Usakas, the former foreign minister of neighboring Belarus and Lithuania to the west. “But he was also trying to walk a fine line in keeping the options and doors open to dialogue with the European Union and the West until the last minute.”

A reserve army colonel and fluent in English and German, McKay was valuable to Lukashenko because of his ability to move between nationalist hardliners and international diplomacy, according to Belarusian political analysts. List’s Pavel Srankin said: Mr. Makey from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

McKay played a key role during the February 2020 visit of then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. On this occasion, the two countries agreed to exchange ambassadors and also discussed the export of oil from the United States and its allies to Belarus. But the thaw in relations with Washington came to an abrupt end six months later, when Moscow-backed Mr Lukashenko launched a brutal campaign to end protests by hundreds of thousands in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. Used force.European Union called fraud.

Western sanctions over Mr Lukashenko’s crackdown have made Belarus increasingly dependent on Russia and a key ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, who used Belarus as a foothold for his February invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian military is also using Belarusian territory to train troops, treat wounded fighters, supply Ukraine with troops, and launch attacks on Ukrainian cities. It has raised concerns that Belarus may be gradually moving toward a direct confrontation with its southern neighbor.

The Russian government is pressuring Lukashenko to become more involved in the military operations of neighboring countries. McKay was scheduled to meet with Russia’s Sergei V. Lavrov later this week.

Lukashenko has not spoken publicly about McCay’s death. State news agency Berta said on Saturday, one line story The president said he extended his condolences to Mr McCay’s family.

Lukashenko has yet to announce a replacement for McKay. Analysts believe the choice will show how ready the president is to push an alliance with Russia.

Thomas Dapkus Contributed report from Vilnius, Lithuania.

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