Russia is prepared to give military support to the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, if that proves necessary. Lukashenko is threatened by mass protests after an allegedly rigged election.
During a telephone call on Sunday, Putin assured the Belarusian leader that Moscow is ready to provide assistance under the terms of a military pact between the two countries.
The Kremlin wrote in the statement about the conversation between the two leaders that Belarus is subject to “external pressure”. There was no further explanation.
There was massive demonstrations in Belarus last week, after Lukashenko and his government claimed that he had received just over 80% of the votes in the presidential elections.
According to the Belarus opposition and international parties, such as the EU and the US, it is clear that the election result has been manipulated. They condemn violence against demonstrators. The European foreign ministers decided at the end of last week to impose sanctions on Lukashenko and other persons within his regime.
At the beginning of the week, the Belarusian security apparatus acted violently against the demonstrators. At least two protesters died. As the week progressed, the violence decreased.
Lukashenko: ‘I will not give up the country’
On Sunday, Lukashenko’s opponents took to the streets. The opposition has called on all critics of the regime to come to the capital city of Minsk. There was also a demonstration by supporters of the Belarusian president, which according to Russian media several thousand people were attracted to.
“I will not give up the country,” said Lukashenko on Sunday during the demonstration of his supporters. According to the president, the opposition is responsible for the violence. He denied that the election results were falsified and said he was prepared to come up with reforms ‘tomorrow’ if the people so wished.
Lukashenko blames foreign interference for the mass protests against his regime. He said that Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine ordered him to return the Belarusians to the ballot box. “We will not follow foreign orders to hold a new election.”
The president states that new elections would mean the end of the Belarusian State.
He also warned against building NATO troops close to the Belarus border.
Minsk and Moscow attract and repel each other
Belarus has a troubled relationship with Russia. The two countries are a single state on paper, but Lukashenko has distanced himself somewhat from Moscow in recent years. The Kremlin is still pursuing unification, but under Putin’s leadership.
Just before the elections, Lukashenko accused Russia of sending mercenaries to his country to create chaos for the benefit of the opposition.
Belarus is an important crossing point for Russian natural gas and oil. The Kremlin also sees the country as a military buffer between Russia and NATO.