Putin offers money, but tells Belarus’ leader to settle unrest himself

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As he sat across the table from Putin, Lukashenko pointed at NATO’s military drills near Belarus’ borders and said the two countries must strengthen their defense ties. Belarus protester found hanging from tree

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In a speech on Monday, U.N. Despite frictions in the past, the Kremlin abhors the prospect of public protests forcing the resignation of the Belarusian leader, fearing it could embolden Putin’s critics at home. First published on September 14, 2020 / 11:43 AM “The Kremlin already has made a decision and is moving to fulfill a careful plan to have Lukashenko removed.”

Alexander Klaskousky, an independent Minsk-based analyst, believed that for the Kremlin, a push for deeper integration between the two countries makes no sense now because of Lukashenko’s precarious position. Speaking at the start of the talks, he emphasized that the Belarusians themselves must settle the situation without any foreign meddling, and commended Lukashenko for his pledge to conduct a constitutional reform. Russia and Belarus have a union treaty envisaging close political, economic and military ties, but they have often engaged in acrimonious disputes. 08:29

Putin congratulated Lukashenko on his re-election and promised to send Russian police to Belarus if protests there turn violent, noting that there is no need for that yet.”We see Belarus as our closest ally and we will undoubtedly fulfill all our obligations,” the Russian leader told Lukashenko during Monday’s talks.Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger who left for Lithuania a day after the vote, under pressure from the authorities, warned Putin that any agreements he may reach with Lukashenko will not stand.”I’m very sorry that you have opted to have a dialogue with the usurper and not the Belarusian people,” she said Monday. “Any agreements signed with Lukashenko, who lacks legitimacy, will be retracted by the new government.”Pavel Latushko, a former culture minister and ambassador to France who was forced to leave Belarus after joining the opposition’s Coordination Council, warned that while the Kremlin is standing by Lukashenko now it may move later to engineer his departure.”Lukashenko discredits himself each day, and when he completely loses his authority it would be easier for Moscow to replace him,” Latushko told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Poland. TUT.BY/Reuters

“Massive protests aren’t abating, and the barbed wire, water cannons and hundreds of detainees underline Lukashenko’s pitiful condition, forcing the Kremlin to start looking for an alternative,” Klaskousky said. The Interior Ministry said 774 people were arrested in Minsk and other cities of Belarus for holding unsanctioned rallies on Sunday.Putin said that Russia would provide a $1.5 billion loan to Belarus and fulfill all its obligations under a union treaty between the neighbors. Before the election, Lukashenko repeatedly accused the Kremlin of pressing Belarus to abandon its independence.But with the United States and the European Union criticizing the election and readying a package of sanctions, Lukashenko now has to rely squarely on Russia’s support. Russian Presidential Executive Office/Reuters

Putin emphasized that Russian paratroopers who arrived in Belarus for joint drills that began Monday will leave the country after the exercise. The United States and the European Union have criticized the election as neither free nor fair and urged the Belarusian leader to engage in talks with the opposition, a demand he has rejected. African nations mostly abstained. “Putin would hardly want to put all eggs in one basket.”As Belarusian authorities continued to target the opposition with pressure and arrests, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to hold an “urgent debate” on Belarus on Friday. “Unfortunately, every day brings new evidence that Lukashenko’s rule is supposed to be preserved with fear and repression,” he said. 02:09

The opposition has dismissed Lukashenko’s talk about constitutional reform as an attempt to win time and assuage the protesters’ anger. Putin offers money, but tells Belarus’ authoritarian leader to settle the unrest himself

September 14, 2020 / 11:43 AM
/ AP

Belarus leader gets a boost from Russia

Belarus leader gets a boost from Russia

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Moscow — Belarus’ authoritarian president visited Russia Monday in a bid to secure more loans and political support, as demonstrations against the extension of his 26-year rule entered their sixth week. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet emphasized that all allegations of torture by the security forces should be documented and investigated.German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, strongly urged the Belarusian authorities to stop using force against demonstrators, release all political prisoners and start a dialogue with the opposition. Klaskousky predicted that the Kremlin might prod Lukashenko to de-escalate the crackdown on protests and engage in political maneuvering to ease tensions, while looking behind the scenes for a candidate to replace him. Putin critic recovering from apparent poisoni… Law enforcement officers block a road in front of opposition supporters during a rally against police brutality following protests to reject the presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, September 13, 2020. Alexander Lukashenko’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi come a day after an estimated 150,000 people flooded the streets of the Belarusian capital, demanding Lukashenko’s resignation. Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, September 14, 2020, in a still image taken from video provided by the Russian president’s office. Get Breaking News Delivered to Your Inbox

Protesters in Belarus have dismissed Lukashenko’s claimed reelection for a sixth term in an August 9 vote, widely seen as rigged. Western and Latin American countries supported the motion, while Venezuela and the Philippines sided with Belarus. Putin hailed it as a “timely and reasonable” move that would help “reach a new level in the development of the political system.” In a bid to win Moscow’s support, the 66-year-old former director of state farming has tried to cast the protests as an effort by the West to isolate Russia, which sees the neighbor as a key bulwark against NATO and a major conduit for energy exports to Europe. Protests keep pressure on Belarus president t…