Lukashenko asks for Putin’s help in trying to survive mass protests | European news

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The Russian leader accepts a $ 1.5 billion loan with Minsk and says the Belarus crisis must be resolved without foreign interference.

Russia has agreed to a $ 1.5 billion loan with Minsk, President Vladimir Putin said in talks with Monday. Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian leader under siege, adding that the Belarusian people should resolve the crisis without foreign interference.

Putin, in comments broadcast on television about the talks in Sochi in Russia, said he believed a Lukashenko proposal for constitutional reform was logical and timely.

Lukashenko arrived in Sochi to meet with Putin on Monday, as protests continued across Belarus to demand an end to his rule following the disputed August 9 elections.

His plane landed in the The Black Sea region a day after police arrested 774 people in anti-government rallies across the country, including 500 in the capital, Minsk, the Belarusian interior ministry said. AAt least 100,000 protesters flooded the streets of Minsk on Sunday.

The meeting, in which Lukashenko thanked Putin for his support, marked the first face-to-face between the leaders since the contested elections in Belarus.

Putin congratulated Lukashenko on his victory at the time, but then described the vote as not ideal. The Russian president’s actions so far suggest that he has no desire to see the leader of a neighboring ex-Soviet country overthrown by pressure from the streets – although Lukashenko has often proved to be a thorny ally and hard.

Protests, some with violence, have gripped the country for five weeks since the vote, with anti-Kremlin placards seen at some rallies

“I am concerned about Russia’s intentions to assert its interests here. We have to be friends with Russia, but it is not good that neighboring countries are involved in our internal problems, ”said a protester at Sunday’s rally.

Katsiaryna Shmatsina of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies told Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko this month exhausted all the tools he used in previous years that were used for large-scale oppression against people. People would be beaten and detained, which would reduce protests. This time it doesn’t work.

On Monday, the UN Rights Council agreed to hold an emergency debate on reports of violence at the hands of the authorities during the protests.

Lukashenko, 65, gave an interview last week to Russian journalists, including Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-controlled RT channel, in which he warned that if his government falls, “Russia will be next. “.

Lukashenko, who led the Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people with an iron fist since 1994, has previously accused the West of staging protests in Belarus in the hope of making it a “bridgehead against Russia.”

Al Jazeera’s step Vaessen, reporting from Minsk, said: “Lukashenko left Belarus for the first time since the start of the political crisis and his negotiating position did not improve after this mass rally on Sunday. He was hoping to keep the numbers low to show President Putin that he had everything under control, which clearly did not work.

“He needs more support from President Putin than ever before. And Putin is ready to support him because Putin really wants to prevent Belarus from falling into the hands of the West and possibly NATO. But this support will come at a price. “

Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, currently in Lithuania, Putin warned against signing any agreement with Lukashenko.

“She said she was sorry that Putin had a dialogue with a usurper and not with the Belarusian people,” said Vaessen.

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