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Final Years for Lukashenka?

Bottom Line: Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenka may not make it past 2015 presidential elections because he’s chosen to take on Russian oligarchs and Russia will hit back by destroying the country’s economy to ensure Lukashenka’s defeat. The answer is in the potash.

Analysis: This is all about Lukashenka’s attempt to re-take control of vital sectors of the economy from Russian oligarchs. Most specifically, it’s about the Russian-owned potash giant Uralkali Corporation and the arrest of its general director, Vladislav Baumgartner. The Russian media is all over this, with detailed looks at how the economy of Belarus has crumbled (based on what they say are the real indicators, rather than Lukashenka’s propaganda), and what’s in store this year and next. The focus is on energy indicators, and they claim that Belarus’ energy production dropped from 39.5 billion kw-hr in 1990 to 30.8 billion kw-hr in 2012. While Lukashenka claims that GDP in 2012 reached 193% of the 1990 level, the Russians claim it is only 78% of the 1990 level. Oil processing is believed to have declined from 39.422 million tons in 1990 to 21.667 tons in 2012. Mineral fertilizers--the country’s second biggest export business--are only at 79% of their top levels during Soviet times. The Russian argument is that Belarus needs its big neighbor to survive—or more precisely, that Lukashenka needs Moscow and the game he is playing with Russian oligarchs…

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