Moscow (dpa) – Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, under pressure due to European Union sanctions, sought further support from Russia on Tuesday at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
“The dynamics are wild. Every day something changes,” Lukashenko said in the National Congress Palace near St Petersburg. State media in both countries had expressed surprise that the leaders’ fourth meeting this year had not been announced in advance.
Russia has been keeping Belarus – largely isolated due to the repression of its citizens – on a financial lifeline.
Putin said that trade between Belarus and Russia was flourishing despite the sanctions. Minsk was also paying back its debts to Moscow, he added.
“On the whole, Belarus remains a great and reliable partner for us in the economic sphere,” Putin said.
According to the Kremlin, the two leaders also planned to coordinate their response to “the West’s attempts to inflame the situation in Belarus.”
Thanks to Russia, Belarus is withstanding the West’s “economic blows,” Lukashenko said. He described sanctions as “terrorism against the Belarusian people.”
For this reason, he said his authorities were now taking action against Western-funded non-governmental organizations and media, telling Putin that the current situation is “not a disaster” for Belarus.
“We will deal with this terror and the other things,” Lukashenko added.
Meanwhile, Belarus’ democracy movement has complained of the most severe repression, including the torture and killing of dissidents. According to human rights activists, the country has more than 500 political prisoners.