Belarus protests: Putin promises $ 1.5bn loan at Lukashenko meeting


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image CaptionAlexander Lukashenko (L) met Vladimir Putin (R) for talks in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided a $ 1.5bn (£ 1.2bn) loan to Belarus, in a face-to-face conversation with the Belgaum leader, Alexander Lukashenko, at the Black Sea resort.

The meeting in Sochi was the first since Lukushenko’s protests in Belarus last month.

There has been widespread controversy in the August 9 election of Mr. Lukashenko.

Mr Putin said “we want Belarusians themselves … to settle this situation peacefully and through dialogue”.

The people of Belarus “must find a common solution”, he said.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said she regrets Mr Putin’s “dialogue with the dictator”.

The Russian president has recognized Mr. Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus, but for five Sundays at least 100,000 people have protested in the capital Minsk, which was widely viewed as a scandal.

Mr. Putin says that he has a Russian police force ready to intervene if he gets out of the interference. And in Sochi, he reiterated the importance of defense cooperation with Belarus.

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said oil and gas cooperation, state debt and other economic relations in the Belarus-Russia “State of the Union” would be discussed in a meeting between the two leaders, but no joint documents would be signed .

The two countries have traditionally been very close, although Mr. Lukashenko has resisted Russian pressure to deepen his union. His reprimand on opponents has alienated him in Europe.

In Sochi, he thanked Mr. Putin and all the Russians “who were involved in our support after this election”.

The meeting came in the form of a joint military exercise which was beginning near Brest, the western Belleros city.

Media captionAccording to the BBC Jonah Fisher report from Minsk, the police have turned their eyes on the female protesters

On Sunday, heavy crowds in Minsk and other cities again demanded that Mr. Lukashenko resign. Police said they detained around 400 people.

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Ms. Tikhanovsna, who lives in Lithuania after being deported, said on her Telegram channel, “I want to remind Vladimir Putin, whatever you agree in Sochi, will not have the legal force.”

“Any agreement signed with the illegitimate Lukashenko will be reconsidered by a new government because the Belarusian people no longer trust Lukashenko and support him in the election. I regret that you negotiated with a dictator. Decided and not with the people of Belarus. “

Mr. Lukashenko has been in power for 26 years. Western governments agree with the protest that the election was affected by several irregularities.

Mr Lukashenko insisted that he won impartially with 80% of the vote and has characterized the protests as Western-backed and anti-Russian.

However, his opponents say that he has a dispute with him, and insists that he is not anti-Russian.

Alexander Lukashenko wants the meeting to show the protesters back home that Russia has its back: a fresh reminder of what is happening in Vladimir Putin’s Belarus and can send in its security forces.

In return, he is busy signaling to Moscow that he is to put Belarus in his orbit, portraying protesters as anti-Russian and supported by the West.

Some have speculated that Mr. Putin would pursue deeper economic and political ties with Minsk as a price for his support.

Only that the risks of escalating tensions do not want to stabilize things like Moscow – and there is no guarantee that a weak Mr. Lukashenko can fulfill any promise.

So there is a growing feeling that Moscow will return him publicly – for now – while initiating negotiations behind the scenes on a transition plan.

How any such agreement will be reached with the crowd of protesters over Mr. Lukashenko’s demand is another matter.

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