Putin throws $ 1.5 billion lifeline to embrace Belarus leader

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a $ 1.5 billion loan in Belarus on Monday at a gesture of support for its leader Alexander Lukashenko, demanding his resignation for help from his patron after five weeks of mass resignation Flew away while doing.

The day after Minsk was taken to the streets of Minsk with more than 100,000 protesters chanting “URA the Rat”, Lukashenko was in urgent need of help to maintain his 26-year grip on power at Putin’s Black Sea resort Met.

Lukashenko said, “First of all, I want to thank you … Thank you in person and all the Russians, all of them, and I will not list them, who were involved in our support after this election.”

Putin gave some information about the new loan, which he said Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin had agreed to during a recent visit to the Belarusian capital.

The Kremlin later said some of the new money would be used to refinance earlier loans. It also said that the two presidents had agreed to increase cooperation in trade and discussed the energy supply for Belarus during the nearly four-hour talks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Alexander Grigoryevich (Lukashenko) is the legitimate President of Belarus, when asked if the Belarusian leader had not lost his legitimacy as a result of the protest.

Putin said that defense cooperation will continue. Hours earlier, Russian news agencies reported that Moscow was sending paratroopers for joint exercises.

The Russian leader also backed the plans, with Lukashenko already declaring for constitutional reform, which the opposition dismissed as a stunt to retain power following a disputed August 9 presidential election.

“We want Belarusians to resolve this situation calmly and through dialogue without pressure and pressure from outside,” Putin said.

It was an inconvenient encounter for the 66-year-old Lukashenko, who shortly before the election shot and killed 32 Russian civilians in Moscow, who sent mercenaries to Belarus to destabilize the country.

Lukashenko said he was “very grateful” for Moscow’s support, adding that he had learned “very serious lessons” from recent events. At one time, TV footage showed him wiping sweat from his handkerchief with his eyebrow.

“You will get your salary for our boxes”

Since the election, which Lukashenko denies rigging to defeat opposition candidate Siwatlana Tsikansukaya, thousands have been arrested and almost all opposition leaders have been jailed, deported or deported. Police said they detained 774 people on Sunday.

Reacting to the news of the Russian debt, Tsikanuskaya wrote on the social media platform Telegram: “Dear Russians! Your taxes will pay our beat. We are sure you would not like that.

“It may prolong Lukashenko’s death but it cannot prevent people’s victory,” he said.

The loan amount is over $ 1.4 billion that Belarus burned last month in gold and foreign exchange reserves to support its ruble currency

A Russian political analyst, Fyodor Lukyanov, said it was a significant boost for Lukashenko.

“At the moment, Minsk has no source of money other than Moscow … For him, it was his main goal – to refinance debt and a new loan. He clearly achieved this,” Lukyanov said.

“Seeing that they are giving him money and actively cooperating with him, (it shows) Moscow feels that he will remain in power, at least for now. The situation is slowly stabilizing. “

The West has acted cautiously, balancing sympathy with the pro-democracy movement for fear of inciting Russian intervention. In a phone call with Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated for a peaceful solution, respecting the will of the Belarusian people.

Lukashenko has been a substantial ally of Russia in the past, and has had a strange personal relationship with Putin. But the Kremlin has made it clear that it does not want to be involved in street protests, as it did in 2014 in Ukraine.

Putin said that last month he had set up a “reserve police force” at Lukashenko’s request, which could be deployed when needed. Russia has offered to restructure Belarusian debt and support its banks, and has sent journalists to operate Belarusian state TV, after which employees called them for publicity in protest.

Additional reporting by Maria Kisliwa, Tom Balmforth and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber, written by Mark Trevelyan and Peter Graf, editing by Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones