Putin supports Lukashenko with a loan of 1.5 billion at ‘difficult times’

Belarusian President Lukashenko can count on Russia‘s support. During talks in the Russian seaside resort of Sochi, President Putin promised his Belarusian counterpart a loan of USD 1.5 billion. He also said he supported Lukashenko’s planned reforms at this difficult time’.

Lukashenko is under pressure following last month‘s presidential election, which he is said to have won with 80% of the votes. Both the opposition and the European Union are convinced that fraud has been committed. Since election day there has been unrest in Belarus, with massive demonstrations in Minsk and other cities.

Putin said at the meeting that the current crisis must be resolved by the Belarusian people, without foreign interference. He ensured that Russia would remain the biggest investor in the country. In addition, the countries will continue to cooperate in the field of defence. For example, they are holding joint military exercises near Brest, on the border with Poland.

Mr Putin announced financial support, but said that Belarus must solve the current problems on its own:

Lukashenko is heavily dependent on his large neighbour. The country imports oil and gas from Russia at low tariffs and has billions in loans outstanding from Moscow. Despite this, Minsk has always managed to keep the two countries’ far-reaching integration outside the door, against Putin‘s wishes.

Just before the presidential elections, the relationship between the two allies seemed to be cooling. Lukashenko reacted with displeasure when 33 Russians were arrested in his country at the end of July. They were said to be part of a private Russian company which was supposed to destabilise the country. He also accused Russia of a plot to bring him down. For example, the arrested opposition leader Babariko is said to be working for Russia. Babariko’s campaign leader Maria Kolesnikova later became the face of the opposition.

Shortly after Lukashenko‘s disputed election victory, the air seemed to have cleared between neighbouring countries. Putin immediately recognised the election results and said that ‘all problems will be solved quickly‘. Lukashenko described the protests in his country as a threat to the whole region. Later, Moscow supported Minsk by allowing Russian journalists to fly in and holding a reserve police force.

The President of Belarus today thanked his Russian counterpart for his support and reiterated his commitment to constitutional reform. The opposition does not trust this promise as an insincere attempt to reduce protests.

EU sanctions delayed

Meanwhile, the EU Member States have not yet agreed on new sanctions against Belarus. This would be because, for example, Cyprus, which has good relations with Russia, only wants to agree to sanctions against Belarus if steps are also taken against Turkey. This is looking for raw materials in the vicinity of Cyprus.

According to Foreign Minister Blok, a decision must be taken next week. He does not consider the indecision to be good for the EU’s image as a major foreign player. I am running out of impatience