Together on the ski slopes: Lukashenko meets Kremlin chief Putin

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Together on the ski slopes: Lukashenko meets Kremlin chief Putin







© Keystone/Pool Sputnik Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin


A good six months after the protests began in Belarus, the ruler Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have emphasized the close cooperation between the two countries.

“Not a day goes by when our colleagues do not talk to each other and solve certain problems,” said the Kremlin chief on Monday at a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi, excerpts of which were shown on state television. Lukashenko called his colleague someone “close to him”. After an hour-long conversation, the two heads of state went skiing together.

Putin announced further deliveries of the Russian corona vaccine Sputnik V to Belarus. “We have to combine our efforts, including with our European colleagues,” he said. According to Lukashenko, his country wants to develop its own vaccine by autumn.

The last time the two heads of state met in September, also in Sochi. Putin promised the financially troubled neighboring country a billion-euro loan. Now the Kremlin chief has said that cooperation between the two countries’ industries is more important than “direct financial support” from Moscow.

Belarus’ economy is heavily dependent on Russia, which supplies oil and gas, for example. Moscow also sees its neighbors and allies as a strategically important buffer zone to NATO.

After the presidential election on August 9, which is widely regarded as falsified, mass protests broke out in Belarus. Recently, however, there were only a few campaigns. After 26 years in power, Lukashenko had himself confirmed for a sixth term with 80.1 percent of the vote. The EU no longer recognizes him as president and has already imposed sanctions on the authoritarian leadership. Russia repeatedly urged Lukashenko to reform the constitution.

At least in the part of the talks broadcast on state television, that was not an issue. Observers had expected Putin to address the trial of the first prominent opposition activist imprisoned in Belarus at the meeting. Viktor Babariko was the head of the subsidiary of the Russian Gazprombank in Belarus. He wanted to run against Lukashenko in the election, but was arrested.

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