Russian premier to meet with Belarus’ leadership in show of support

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is to visit neighbouring Belarus on Thursday to meet with senior officials in a show of support amid persistent protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Russia remains Lukashenko’s strongest ally in spite of the long-time Belarusian leader’s allegations ahead of last month’s disputed presidential election, that Russian paramilitary forces had been seeking to destabilise Belarus.

Lukashenko has since pushed the blame for instability in the country – which borders European Union (EU) member states Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland – on to the EU.

The EU has denounced the Aug. 9 election as “neither free nor fair,” and condemned a violent police crackdown on the protests, which have emerged every day since the vote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to send law enforcement forces to Belarus to quash the protests if needed.

Mishustin’s visit was to pave the way for a meeting between Putin and Lukashenko within the next two weeks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on Wednesday.

“This underlines our mutual disposition to further develop equal, mutually beneficial relations, including within the framework of the union state,” Lavrov said, referring to a bilateral alliance between those former Soviet countries, according to an official transcript.

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