Yevhen Shevchenko, a lawmaker with the ruling Servant of the People faction, recently traveled to Belarus capital Minsk where he was accepted by Alexander Lukashenko he said he had long dreamed of meeting in person. Meanwhile, Ukraine never recognized Lukashenko as legitimate president following the latest election turmoil in the neighboring country. Therefore, such a rendezvous was unacceptable and harmful to Kyiv.
Firstly, a people's deputy is an official who has a special rank of a civil servant, is entitled with exclusive rights and duties of a parliamentarian, and also represents the people of Ukraine and the State of Ukraine. No matter how stupid a lawmaker acts, this will automatically be reflected on the country he represents.
Such a rendezvous was unacceptable and harmful to Kyiv
There is a clearly defined order, accepted internationally: any foreign trip by a legislator, any meeting with a high-ranking official of another country must be coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a certain strategy is laid down for such contacts. Upon their return, they draw up a report (on interlocutors, the agenda of meetings held, and on how much it was all in line with the plan).
This is no game of movie set, this is government policy.
Secondly, Lukashenko's position remains in limbo today. He is ready to grasp any opportunity to legitimize himself. At the same time, Ukraine is now in the global limelight, so any meeting with any Ukrainian official gives Lukashenko a boost toward legitimacy – even more so if he meets a parliamentarian with the ruling party...
The world believes that a member of a ruling party cannot but coordinate their visit with the President's Office and/or the president himself. Therefore, this will be perceived as a certain step in state policy at the highest level. It would never occur to anyone that the deputy is an uncontrollable or ignorant person.
This is no game of movie set, this is government policy
Meanwhile, Lukashenko exploits the visit for his own purposes – for the sake of legitimizing himself in Belarus and beyond. Such a meeting creates a certain media opportunity, even if Shevchenko and Lukashenko struck no deals on anything.
And this is how, due to the oblivious move by a people's deputy, Ukraine is legitimizing Lukashenko as president.
In fact, Ukraine could face unfortunate repercussions as its foreign partners, used to implementing their foreign policy carefully, step by step, thoughtfully and strategically, will turn their backs on Kyiv, observing such irresponsible moves by legislators.
First, some weird leaks on some kind of a special operation against Russia's PMC Wagner mercenaries, then a ruling party's MP holding talks with an internationally unrecognized dictator... This could leave Ukraine face to face with Putin with no foreign help. And this is precisely the threat because such moves portray Ukrainians as ignoramuses, while the State of Ukraine is seen as a partially disabled country. With such steps, the people's deputy is simply working in the interests of Ukraine's external adversaries.
Another question is what Shevchenko actually told Lukashenko. In particular, he said more than a third of Ukrainians (36%) dream of such a president as him. If such words are uttered by an official, this means that there are serious issues with the Ukrainian voters who want something that is loathed in Belarus. Then, again, civilized democracies may ask themselves if it's worth dealing with and protecting the Ukrainian people then?
Such statements compromise the entire population
Such statements compromise the entire population, although they are absolutely not confirmed by anything, being some kind of misinformation (I haven't seen a single sociological study backing the claim). In the best times, even Putin had a lower rating in Ukraine. So where did Lukashenko's 36% come from? It appears that fake narratives circulated by an inadequate MP tarnish Ukrainian voters and the Ukrainian State as a whole.
Personally, I'm simply embarrassed about such statements and actions by the People's Deputy.
To minimize the negative implications of the visit, the position of the Servant of the People should be clear: the case should be publicly considered at a faction meeting, with the best option being to exclude Shevchenko from the political force and sharply condemn his act at the parliamentary level.
Decisive steps are also needed because the incident falls under the direct responsibility of Ukrainian president. It turns out that foreign policy in Ukraine can be implemented by someone other than president – to be precise, by some MP. Therefore, it is important that at least some administrative and personnel steps be taken in relation to Shevchenko, so that no one else dares to encroach on presidential powers.
Unfortunately though, he's not the only inadequate legislator with the ruling faction: some celebrate birthdays amid lockdown, some travel wherever they want – there are quite a few such figures in parliament. Therefore, in my opinion, we will see no serious reaction from the "Servants".
Oleksandr Kochetkov is a Ukrainian political analyst