Belarus Strongman Says Putin Ready to ‘Help Ensure Security’

President Alexander Lukashenko said Saturday that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has offered full assistance to ensure security in Belarus as thousands held peaceful protests against his rule.

“To talk about the military element, we have an agreement with Russia as part of the union state and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).  Such situations fall under that agreement,” Lukashenko told defense chiefs, quoted by Belta state news agency.

“I had a long, substantial conversation today with the Russian president… We agreed that at our very first request, comprehensive help will be given to ensure the security of Belarus.”

Belarus and Russia have formed a “union state” linking their economies and militaries, while the CSTO is a military alliance between six ex-Soviet states.

Lukashenko had a phone conversation with Putin earlier Saturday and the Kremlin said the leaders “expressed confidence that all the problems that have arisen will be resolved soon”.

Russia has been the only neighbor of Belarus to back Lukashenko during the mass protests that have gained growing support from Belarusians and drawn international condemnation of police violence and vote-rigging.

Belarus Vote Challenger Calls for ‘Peaceful’ Protests in All Cities

The main challenger in Belarus’s disputed presidential election called Friday for mass weekend rallies across the country in support of her claim to have defeated strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

“Belarusians will never want to live with the previous government again. The majority do not believe in his victory,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said in a video address.

“I ask the mayors of all cities to organize peaceful mass gatherings in every city on Aug. 15 and 16.”

Tikhanovskaya, who left the country for neighboring Lithuania on Tuesday, said Belarus had undergone momentous change and condemned a police crackdown on protests that has seen thousands of people arrested, hundreds wounded and at least two dead.

“Six months ago, no one believed that Belarusians would be able to unite and say ‘no’ to the old government. But it happened,” she said.

“The government turned the peaceful demonstration of citizens in the streets into a bloody massacre,” Tikhanovskaya said.

“The situation is critical. We need to stop the violence on the streets of Belarus’s cities. I call on the authorities to stop this and start a dialogue.”

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