Putin expresses support for Lukashenko amid Belarus crisis

Moscow, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for embattled Beralrusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Monday.

Putin said he supports constitutional reforms as a way to resolve the crisis in the former Soviet republic and that there should not be any foreign interference.

He met with his Belarusian counterpart in person at a Black Sea resort in Sochi, their first meeting since Belarus was gripped by anti-Lukashenko protests following a controversial election on 9 August.

Putin described a proposal by Lukashenko for constitutional reform as “logical and timely”.

He added that Belarusians must solve the crisis themselves without any foreign pressure.

He stressed that Russia sees Belarus as a close ally and agreed to lend Minsk $1.5 billion.

Putin also said he had a Russian police force ready to intervene in Belarus if the protests get out of control.

Lukashenko thanked Putin and the Russian people for their support.

The meeting took place after more than 770 demonstrators were arrested at anti-Lukashenko marches across Belarus on Sunday.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya warned that the agreements Putin and Lukashenko made will have no legal value.

“I would like to remind Vladimir Putin that whatever they agree to at the meeting in Sochi will have no value,” she said in a video message.

“All the agreements signed by the illegitimate Lukashenko will be reviewed by the new authorities because the people withdrew their confidence in him during the elections.”

She added: “I very much regret that you have decided to hold talks with a usurper and not with the people of Belarus.”

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, is facing growing pressure from inside and outside his country and has only been backed by Russia and China.

He was officially announced the winner of last month’s vote with 80.1 percent of the votes, while Tikhanovskaya was declared to have won 10 percent.

Lukashenko, considered by many to be Europe’s last dictator, has refused to cede power.

Thousands of activists have been arrested in the aftermath of the election, many of them reported being beaten by police and were seen with bruises, contusions and injuries on their release. EFE-EPA


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