BERLIN - Russia is planning to absorb neighboring Belarus by 2030, according to a document allegedly leaked from Russia's presidential administration.
The document was obtained and reported on by an international consortium of journalists from news organizations including Yahoo News and Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung.
The document, which reportedly dates back to the summer of 2021, sets out a plan to infiltrate Belarus politically, economically and militarily. Plans are set out on different stages: short-term or until 2022, medium-term or until 2025 and long-term, meaning 2030.
The long-term plan translates into the formation of a common "union state" under Russian leadership.
Both countries are already formally part of a so-called "union state," as per a 1999 agreement. The agreement sets a legal basis for integration between the two countries.
However, media outlets which obtained the document in question suggest Russia's plans are more about annexing Belarus by 2030.
Entitled "Strategic Goals of the Russian Federation in Belarus," the 17-page document speaks of pushing back Western influence in the region and fortification against NATO.
Should such a plan ever materialize, Russia would become immediate neighbors with Lithuania and Poland, two NATO and European Union members.
Once part of the former Soviet Union, Belarus maintained its strong ties with Russia after the collapse of the Union thanks to the policies of Alexander Lukashenko, who has presided over the country since 1994.
The country's last elections in 2020 were contested and met with the jailing of opposition candidates and nationwide protests after Lukashenko declared himself victor. Thousands were arrested in an ensuing crackdown.
The United States and the European Union responded by no longer recognizing Lukashenko as the country's president.
Both Yahoo News and Suddeutsche Zeitung said they spoke to analysts and experts who confirmed the authenticity of the document.
An unnamed Western official was cited by Yahoo News as saying the document was prepared by the Presidential Directorate for Cross-Border Cooperation.
The subdivision of Putin's Presidential Administration was set up in October 2018. The source told Yahoo News that the subdivision was tasked with proposing new strategies to achieve Russia's strategic goals in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.
An unnamed Western intelligence officer told Yahoo News that Russian intelligence services and the armed forces all contributed to the plan.