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Putin: Russia ready to help with Belarus security

August 27, 2020

The Russian president says his Belarusian counterpart has asked for security assistance, should the situation spiral out of control. However, Vladimir Putin said he would not do so unless absolutely necessary.

Protester among police in Minsk
Image: picture-alliance/AP/D. Lovetsky

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he had been asked to set up a reserve police force to help out should the security situation in Belarus worsen.

Putin said there was a body of Russian law enforcement officers prepared to enter Belarus to stop protests, but only if absolutely necessary.

"If extremists, hiding behind political slogans, cross certain boundaries and start looting, setting fire to cars, homes, banks, attempting to seize administrative buildings, and so on," said Putin, listing the circumstances under which Moscow might intervene.

The Russian president said the force had been formed at the request of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"I told him Russia would fulfill all its obligations. Alexander Grigorivich [Lukashenko] asked me to create a reserve police force and I have done that. But we agreed this would not be used unless the situation got out of control."

However, Putin also admitted there were problems in Belarus, "otherwise people wouldn't take to the streets."

"The parties to this process have enough common sense to find a way out without resorting to extremes," he added.

Read more:  Belarus' Soviet-era economy still propped up by Moscow

Claims of foreign interference

Political activist and musician Maria Kolesnikova on Thursday became the latest opposition figure to be questioned by state investigators. A criminal case is being compiled against a council that was set up last week seeking to negotiate a peaceful transition.

Lukashenko on Thursday claimed that Belarus's neighbors were openly interfering in the country's affairs. He alleged that Poland was making plans to take over the Grodno region, close to where the borders of Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus meet.

Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Russia should not even make plans to intervene in Belarus.

"The Polish government urges Russia to immediately withdraw from plans of a military intervention in Belarus, under false excuse of 'restoring control' — a hostile act, in breach of international law and human rights of Belarusian people, who should be free to decide their own fate," Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

Read more:  Belarusians 'will never accept' Lukashenko's leadership, says opposition's Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Dispute over scope of sanctions

European Union foreign ministers met in Berlin on Thursday to discuss sanctions aimed at pressuring Lukashenko to hold new elections.

EU ministers are considering travel bans and asset freezes on some 20 individuals linked with the crackdown on demonstrators, with Baltic states pushing for more names to be added — including that of Lukashenko himself.

The 65-year-old has led Belarus for the past 26 years but has been met with weeks of protest against his reelection amid accusations that the August 9 vote was rigged. Belarusian police have been accused of an overly harsh crackdown on demonstrators.

Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, took refuge in neighboring Lithuania after the official results gave her only a 10% share of the votes.  

rc/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)