Belarus’ embattled leader in Russia for talks with Putin as mass demonstrations continue

Belarus' embattled leader in Russia for talks with Putin as mass protests continue

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The embattled president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has actually fulfilled his last ally standing Monday, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, less than 24 hours after more than 100,000 individuals required to the streets in the current round of demonstrations to require his resignation.

The set held a “working meeting” at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi — their very first in person conference given that a demonstration motion emerged throughout Belarus after the objected to Aug. 9 president election. Protesters implicate Lukashenko of rigging the election in his favor.

Often described as “Europe’s last dictator,” Lukashenko has actually preserved his grasp on power in the previous Soviet country for the last 26 years and fulfilled the demonstrations with a violent crackdown. Hundreds have actually been jailed and there have actually been accusations of abuse from individuals held in custody.

The Kremlin stated in a declaration ahead of the conference that the leaders will talk about “key issues” for the advancement of the bilateral relations, consisting of trade, economy, energy and culture. It made no reference of the political chaos in Belarus.

But throughout a telecasted part of the conference on Monday, Lukashenko thanked Putin for his “support in this challenging duration,” mentioning demonstrations that he has actually had a hard time to include.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed. I say that sincerely,” Lukashenko stated, favoring Putin, with Russian leader exhibiting no apparent heat towards his Belarusian equivalent.

Putin declared previous dedications under shared treaties with Belarus, consisting of the 1994 security contract, which mandates that both nations provide help — consisting of military aid if needed — if one deals with an external hazard.

“We see Belarus as our closest ally,” he stated, while guaranteeing a $1.5 billion loan to its next-door neighbor as the nation battles with a tanking economy amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The conference is happening versus the background of pre-planned joint military drills including Belarusian and Russian soldiers in the city of Brest, on the border with Poland, Russian state news firm Tass reported Sunday.

Putin, among just a few foreign leaders to praise Lukashenko on his election triumph, has actually provided military help ought to the scenario aggravate. So far, no Russian soldiers have actually crossed the border.

Putin’s relationship with Lukashenko ended up being wintry after the failure of talks in 2015 to deepen the combination in between the 2 nations, with Lukashenko declining what he viewed as an attack on his nation’s sovereignty.

Those ties were even more strained right before the election after Belarus apprehended a group of believed Russian mercenaries, whom Belarusian authorities implicated of remaining in the nation to destabilize it. Russia rejected using mercenaries for that function. Lukashenko has given that stated the arrests were an error.

In a comprehensive interview with Russian reporters from state news firms recently, he called Putin his “older brother,” stressing the strength of their relationship and blaming Americans, Czech, Lithuanians and Ukrainians for managing the demonstrations.

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Putin has actually avoided straight discussing Lukashenko’s crackdown on the demonstrations and their leaders.

Last week, among the most prominent demonstration figures, Maria Kolesnikova, stated she was powerfully required to the border with Ukraine recently as Belarusian gatekeeper attempted to require her out of the nation. Kolesnikova stated she got death hazards as she tore her passport to prevent being expelled from the nation.

Nearly all senior figures in the coordination council, developed in the consequences of the demonstrations by the opposition to work out a serene shift of power, have actually either been apprehended or required to leave the nation.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is welcomed by Russian authorities upon his arrival at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday. Andrei Stasevich / AP

Keir Giles, of the London-based diplomacy think tank, Chatham House, stated the stakes were high for both sides in the talks — both males should choose just how much each requires the other.

“If Russia turns versus [Lukashenko], his days are numbered; however if he puts himself excessive in Putin’s hands, his self-reliance which of his nation threat being terminally jeopardized,” Giles stated.

“Whatever the main statements from this conference … we can be sure that far more has actually been concurred behind the scenes, the genuine significance [of which] will be played out in Belarus over the coming weeks and months” he included.

Meanwhile, the United States indicated on Friday, that it will quickly penalize specific Belarusians with sanctions for election scams and crackdown on demonstrations as Washington prompted Russia to inform Lukashenko to step down.

Speaking to press reporters throughout a teleconference, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun stated Lukashenko is progressively dependent on Moscow to keep his guideline. This might turn Belarusian popular opinion versus Russia, he included.

“It risks turning the Belarusian people, who have no grievance with Russia, against Moscow,” he stated, including that he hoped the Kremlin would voice issue about the violence versus protesters in Belarus and the kidnappings of opposition figures.

Reuters added to this report.