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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Lukashenko and Putin meet in Sochi

by Dmitry Sudakov

THE Russian and Belarusian leaders reaffirmed their 20 years of friendship at a summit in Russia this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus held talks at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday against the backdrop of ongoing protests that have rocked Belarus following the results of the presidential elections.

In talks lasting for more than four hours the two leaders discussed the prospects for the development of bilateral co-operation in various fields and reviewed international problems and the situation in the region.

Putin said that he was glad to have the opportunity to congratulate his counterpart on his victory in the presidential election in person.

“We see, of course, we all know about the internal political events in Belarus connected with this election. You know our position very well: we believe that the Belarusians should, without any assistance and pressure from outside, find a way out of the crisis, in a calm manner. It is up to them to decide how to build our work further,” Putin said.

In turn, Alexander Lukashenko thanked Putin and all the Russians who supported the Belarusians in this post-election time.

Lukashenko said sections of the media had distorted what was going on in his country. On weekdays “the country lives an ordinary life”. The weekends were different.

“On Saturday and Sunday we unblock some areas in Minsk so that people can walk through this part, but, most importantly, I constantly say this, they should not cross the line. There are red lines, and you had to draw those lines back in the day, during the war in Chechnya.

“God forbid we have that in Belarus, of course, but there are red lines, which no one has the right to cross,” Lukashenko said, adding that no one had crossed them so far.

Putin, for his part, again outlined Russia’s position of non-interference in the events in Belarus. He said that the Belarusians should find a way out of the crisis without any external pressure.

Interestingly enough they said the same sort of thing 20 years ago. In October 2000, at a similar meeting in Sochi, Putin said Russia was not going to interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus and Lukashenko thanked Putin for his support.

For the time being, it remains unknown whether Russia is going to provide military support to Belarus in light of the protests in the country, nor was it said what kind of assistance that could be.

During the meeting in Sochi, Putin promised that Russia would fulfil all its obligations to Belarus, including those within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

“Russia remains committed to all our agreements, including the agreements arising from the treaty on the Union State, the CSTO. We regard Belarus as our closest ally and, of course, as I have repeatedly told you in our telephone conversations, we will fulfil all the obligations we have,” said Putin.

As part of the Collective Security Treaty (CST), Belarus can ask for help if its defence is in jeopardy due to an external threat.

Last month the Russian government announced the creation of a reserve unit in Russia to aid Belarus at Lukashenko’s request. Russia also supports the reform of the Belarusian constitution and will provide a $1.5 billion loan to Belarus to help the economy.

Lukashenko confirmed the inviolability of Belarusian–Russian co-operation in the military sphere. “We always share the same tactics. I may have been rude with Russian journalists recently when I said that we can argue a lot on many things, but our defence has never raised questions and doubts.”

Trade turnover between Russia and Belarus has fallen by more than 21 per cent. “This is a considerable drop,” Putin said. But this was down to the coronavirus emergency and “not related to our work”.

Russia and Belarus will overcome the current difficulties and “as for our economic relations, Russia remains the largest investor in the Belarusian economy. One of the projects – a nuclear power plant – is valued at $10 billion,” Putin said.

In general, over 50 per cent of the trade turnover of Belarus falls on the Russian Federation; there are nearly 2,000 companies with Russian capital operating in the republic.