Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has come to President Vladimir Putin of Russia for talks, as protests continued across Belarus against the embattled leader’s rule following a disputed August 9 election.
Lukashenko’s plane landed in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Monday morning, a day after police detained 774 people at anti-government protests across Belarus, including 500 in the capital Minsk, the Belarusian interior ministry said on Monday. At least 100,000 protesters flooded the streets of Minsk on Sunday.
The meeting between the two leaders marks their first face-to-face talks since the contested Belarusian election.
The Kremlin said Putin and Lukashenko would address aspects of their strategic partnership, including energy, trade, and cultural projects.
Putin congratulated Lukashenko on his victory at the time but later described the vote as not ideal. The Russian president’s actions so far suggest he has no desire to see the leader of a neighbouring ex-Soviet country toppled by pressure from the streets – even if Lukashenko has often proved a prickly and difficult ally.
Protests, some featuring violence, have gripped the country for five weeks since the vote, with anti-Kremlin placards seen at some rallies
“I’m worried about Russia’s intentions to enforce its interests here. We have to be friends with Russia, but it is not good for neighbouring countries to be involved in our internal problems,” said a protestor at Sunday’s rally. Read here