Belarus Strongman traveled to Russia to ask for help from Putin

Mr. Putin has long been openly impatient with Mr. Lukashenko, a leader who is said to see him as indecisive and untrustworthy, and who has maintained the sovereignty of Belarus and his own unbridled powers. Has demanded to be put on Moscow’s arm. But, after seeing fellow strongmen implicated in the protests, Mr Putin announced late last month that he had “a reserve force” of Russian security officials ready to intervene in Belarus when the situation is out of control. Is formed. “

The Kremlin has not yet deployed force, but Russia has taken an increasingly active role in Belarus, sending advisors to help Mr. Lukashenko and Russian journalists to fill jobs in state media left vacant by the resignation of local staff Diya, who sat together in protest. In August, Russia, Mr. Putin said, “What is happening there is certainly not indifferent.”

Mr. Putin made it clear to Mr. Lukashenko on Monday that he hoped to progress towards the formation of the so-called Union of States, which was agreed on a largely stable project in the late 1990s but Mr. Lukashenko Has protested his exit from the fear that he may be much less than a regional governor under Kremlin control.

In a blunt reminder of Belarus’s subjugation to Russia in the past, and perhaps a warning of things to come, last week the Ambassador of Moscow in Minsk presented Mr. Lukashenko with a leather bound book showing the historical map of Belarus when He was a part of it. Russian Empire.

In his remarks at the beginning of a conversation with Mr. Putin in Sochi, Mr. Lukashenko reiterated what has become his favorite pitch for Russian support: his existence as a leader is the only way to protect Belarus and Russia is also the West. By construction. . He claimed that NATO is massaging troops along its country’s border, something that the US-led military alliance has strongly denied.

At the end of the talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say whether the two presidents discussed the timing of a possible new election. For the moment, Mr. Peskov said, Russia considers Mr. Lukashenko “the legitimate president of Belarus,” and loves all Belarusians, including the protesters, as brothers.

Oleg Matsenev contributed reporting.