Belarus leader visits Russia to secure more loans, support amid protests

Topics Russia | protests

President Alexander Lukashenko

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.

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.

The Interior Ministry said 774 people were arrested in Minsk and other cities of Belarus for holding unsanctioned rallies on Sunday.

Protesters in Belarus have dismissed Lukashenko's reelection for a sixth term in the August 9 vote as rigged.

He has dismissed protesters as Western puppets and rejected demands from the United States and the European Union to conduct a dialogue with the opposition.

In a bid to win Moscow's support, the 66-year-old former state farm director has tried to cast the protests as an effort by the West to isolate Russia, which sees the neighbour as a key bulwark against NATO and a major conduit for energy exports to Europe.

Russia and Belarus have a union treaty envisaging close political, economic and military ties, but they often have engaged in acrimonious disputes. Before the election, Lukashenko has repeatedly accused the Kremlin of pressing Belarus to abandon its independence.

But with the United States and the European Union criticising the election as neither free nor fair and readying a package of sanctions, Lukashenko now has to rely squarely on Russia's support.

Despite the frictions in the past, the Kremlin abhors the prospect of public protests forcing the resignation of the nation's leader, fearing it could embolden Putin's critics at home.

Putin quickly 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.

Moscow has also signaled it's ready to discuss the restructuring of Belarus' USD 1 billion debt to Russia, a key issue in Monday's talks between Putin and Lukashenko.



Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel