Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin, flight tracking data showed, as protests continued in Belarus against the struggling leader’s government following a controversial August 9 election.
Lukashenko’s plane landed in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Monday morning, a day after police arrested 774 people during anti-government protests across Belarus, including 500 in the capital Minsk, the ministry said Monday. of the Belarusian interior. Aon Sunday at least 100,000 demonstrators invaded the streets of Minsk.
The meeting between the two leaders marks their first face-to-face talks since the disputed Belarusian elections.
The Kremlin said Putin and Lukashenko will 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 president̵
Protests, some violently, gripped the country for five weeks since the vote, with anti-Kremlin placards seen in some demonstrations
“I am concerned about Russia’s intentions to assert its interests here. We must be friends with Russia, but it is not good for neighboring countries to be involved in our internal problems,” a protester said at Sunday’s rally.
Katsiaryna Shmatsina of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies told Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko this month exhausted all the tools he used to apply in previous years and which have been used for large-scale oppression of people. people would have been beaten and detained and thus reduced protests. This time it doesn’t work. “
On Monday, the UN Rights Council agreed to host an urgent debate on reports of violence at the hands of authorities during the protests.
Lukashenko, 65, last week gave an interview this week to Russian reporters, including Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-controlled RT channel, in which he warned that if his government falls, “Russia will be next. “.
Lukashenko, who ruled the Eastern European a nation of 9.5 million people with an iron fist since 1994, it previously blamed the West for fomenting demonstrations in Belarus in hopes of turning it into a “bridgehead against Russia”.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, in a report from Minsk, said: “Lukashenko has left Belarus for the first time since the political crisis began and his negotiating position has not improved after this Sunday mass rally. He hoped to keep. low numbers to show to President Putin who has everything under control which obviously did not work.
“He needs more support from President Putin than ever before. And Putin is willing to give him his support because Putin really wants to prevent Belarus from falling into the hands of the West and possibly NATO. But that support will come at a price.”
“There are several scenarios being discussed right now by observers as to what will come out of this meeting, but we may not even find out. The Kremlin said no statements will be made after the meeting.”
“Whatever the result is today, it will not be what the opposition is aiming for because they are not on the table, they are not discussed by the two men from Sochi today.”
Al Jazeera and news agencies