Wednesday 9/23/20

Belarus' Lukashenko arrives in Russia to meet Putin for crisis talks

At least 7,000 people have been detained at protests since the elections, according to the Belarusian Interior Ministry. The United Nations has received 450 reports of torture and abuse of such detainees.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Photo: Kremlin/dpa/File photo.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Photo: Kremlin/dpa/File photo.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Monday for talks with his counterpart Vladimir Putin about how to manage the post-election crisis in Belarus.

It was Lukashenko's first trip abroad since the disputed presidential election more than a month ago, as Lukashenko faces mass anti-government protests at home and diplomatic pressure abroad.

On the agenda is further integration of Belarus and neighbouring Russia through their 'union state' alliance, the Kremlin said in a statement, adding that they were also to address other issues, such as energy, trade and cultural projects.

Earlier this year, Lukashenko had accused Russia of seeking to absorb Belarus by imposing crippling economic pressure on the struggling country, led by Lukashenko for more than a quarter-century.

Putin has congratulated Lukashenko on his controversial victory in the August 9 election but has described the vote as not ideal.

On Sunday, up to 150,000 people gathered in the Belarusian capital Minsk to demand Lukashenko's resignation. More than 700 people were detained, the Belarusian Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Protests have rattled authoritarian Belarus for five weeks now, ever since large swathes of the population refused to believe the results of the election, which authorities said gave Lukashenko more than 80% of the vote.

The European Union has denounced the election as "neither free nor fair" and condemned police violence against protesters. 

7,000 people detained

At least 7,000 people have been detained at protests since the elections, according to the Belarusian Interior Ministry. The United Nations has received 450 reports of torture and abuse of such detainees.

The UN Human Rights Council plans to discuss rights violations in Belarus in a special debate on Friday.

"Enforced disappearances, forced abductions, expulsions and arbitrary detentions continue to take place every day in Belarus," German envoy Michael von Ungern-Sternberg said on Monday, explaining why EU countries sought to add Belarus to the agenda.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that all torture allegations against Belarus security forces should be documented and investigated, "with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice."

The decision to take up the Belarus issue was supported by 25 mostly Western countries on the council. Venezuela and the Philippines opposed the debate, while 20 developing and emerging countries abstained.

Belarus envoy Yury Ambrazevich denounced the move as "a form of direct intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state" by EU countries.

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