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Lukashenko and Putin say Belarus 'problems' will be resolved

Saturday, 15 August, 2020, 17:30
Lukashenko and Putin say Belarus 'problems' will be resolved

The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, have expressed confidence that all problems that had arisen in Belarus would soon be resolved, the Kremlin said.

“These problems should not be exploited by destructive forces seeking to harm the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the union state,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.

The two leaders spoke to each other by telephone.

Lukashenko had earlier issued an appeal to Russia, his long-term ally, as he faced growing pressure to step down after a disputed election that has triggered protests at home and condemnation abroad.

Lukashenko is grappling with the biggest challenge to his 26-year rule as tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets accusing him of rigging last Sunday’s presidential election, and calling for him to step down.

He suggested the impact of the protests might spill beyond Belarus’s borders. “There is a need to contact Putin so that I can talk to him now, because it is not a threat to just Belarus any more,” said Lukashenko, according to the state news agency Belta.

He said: “Defending Belarus today is no less than defending our entire space, the union state… Those who roam the streets, most of them do not understand this.”

The Russian news agency Interfax, citing Belarusian media,said Lukashenko had discussed the situation with Putin in a telephone call.

The European Union is gearing up to impose new sanctions on Belarus in response to a bloody crackdown in which at least two protesters have been killed and thousands detained, while the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania called on Belarus to conduct new “free and fair” elections.

The opposition’s presidential candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled to neighbouring Lithuania on Tuesday, has called for more protests and an election recount.

Several thousand people gathered in Minsk on Saturday. A large crowd formed near the Pushkinskaya metro station in the capital, in honour of a protester who died there during police crackdowns on demonstrators.