On Monday, September 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who arrived in Russia for a work visit against the backdrop of ongoing protests that started rocking Belarus after the announcement of the results of the presidential elections. The meeting between the two presidents took place in Sochi.
The tete-a-tete talks lasted for more than four hours. The leaders, as it was officially announced, discussed the state and prospects for the development of bilateral cooperation in various fields, reviewed international problems and the situation in the region, as well as issues of joint response to emerging challenges.
The President of Russia said that he was glad to have the opportunity to congratulate his counterpart on his victory in the presidential election in person.
“We see, of course, we all know about the internal political events in Belarus connected with this election. You know our position very well: we believe that the Belarusians should, without any assistance and pressure from outside, find a way out of the crisis, in a calm manner. It is up to them to decide how to build our work further,” Putin said.
In turn, Alexander Lukashenko said that Vladimir Putin chose the right behaviour against the background of the crisis in the republic. Lukashenko thanked Putin and expressed gratitude to all Russians who supported the Belarusians in this post-election time.
Lukashenko promised to talk to Putin about the current state of affairs in Belarus, because the media, as he said, alegedly distorted the situation.
“Everything, of course, is not the way it is interpreted in the media. You know it better than me how they can distort everything,” Lukashenko said, adding that there was a lot of conspiracy in the media about the meeting between the presidents of the Russian Federation and Belarus.
According to Lukashenko, he was closely watching the weekend protests in Minsk. The President stressed that on weekdays “the country lives an ordinary life.” “On Saturday and Sunday we unblock some areas in Minsk so that people could walk through this part, but, most importantly, I constantly say this, they should not cross the line. There are red lines, and you had to draw those lines back in the day, during the war in Chechnya. God forbid we have that in Belarus, of course, but there are red lines, which no one has the right to cross,” the President of Belarus said, adding that no one crossed them so far.
During the meeting in Sochi, Vladimir Putin once again outlined Russia’s position of non-interference in the events in Belarus. He said that citizens of Belarus should find a way out of the crisis without any pressure from the outside.
Interestingly, 20 years ago, the rhetoric of the two leaders has not changed much. In October 2000, at a similar meeting in Sochi with Lukashenko, Putin also said that Russia was not going to interfere in internal affairs of Belarus. Lukashenko then thanked Putin for his support and said that Russia supported Belarus without interfering in its internal affairs.
For the time being, it remains unknown whether Russia is going to provide military support to Belarus in light of the protests in the country, nor was it said what kind of assistance exactly that could be.
During the meeting in Sochi, Putin promised that Russia would fulfill all its obligations to Belarus, including those within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
“Russia remains committed to all our agreements, including the agreements arising from the treaty on the Union State, the CSTO. We regard Belarus as our closest ally and, of course, as I have repeatedly told you in our telephone conversations, we will fulfill all the obligations we have,” said Putin.
As part of the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO), Belarus can ask for help if its defense is in jeopardy due to an external threat. If there is an external danger that poses a threat to the defense of Belarus, the latter can ask for help in accordance with Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty.
In addition, Article 2 of the Treaty states that CSTO member states can assist each other to protect their sovereignty.
In late August, Vladimir Putin announced the creation of a reserve unit in Russia to provide assistance to the Belarusian regime. According to Putin, it was Lukashenko who asked him to do it.
“There are relevant articles in the treaty of the Union State and within the framework of the CSTO that say that all member states of these organizations, including the Union State, and there are only two member states here – Russia and Belarus – should help each other in protecting their sovereignty, external borders and stability,” Putin said.
Russia supports the reform of the Constitution of Belarus and will provide a 1.5-billion-dollar to Belarus.
At a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said that he considered the work on amendments to the Constitution of Belarus to be logical.
“We know about your proposal to start working on the Constitution. I believe that it is logical, timely, and expedient,” Putin said at the meeting in Sochi.
Lukashenko confirmed the inviolability of the Belarusian-Russian cooperation in the military sphere. “As for defense, we always share the same tactics. I may have been rude with Russian journalists recently when I said that we can argue a lot on many things, but our defense has never raised questions and doubts.”
It also became known that Russia would give Belarus a loan worth $1.5 billion. Putin recalled that the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin was recently on a visit to Belarus.
“I know that he held very serious negotiations that were successful in all areas of our interaction, including in the financial sphere. We agreed that Russia will provide Belarus with a state loan – $ 1.5 billion, at this difficult time, – said Putin. – And we will fulfill this, now. As far as we know, our finance ministers are working on this at a professional level. “
In the economic sphere, the trade turnover between Russia and Belarus dropped by more than 21 percent. “This is a considerable drop, it is not related to our work, it is connected with the coronavirus,” assured Vladimir Putin, adding that Russia and Belarus will overcome the current difficulties.” … “As for our economic relations, Russia remains the largest investor in the Belarusian economy. One of the projects – a nuclear power plant – is evaluated at $10 billion,” Putin said.
In general, over 50 percent of the trade turnover of Belarus falls on the Russian Federation; there are nearly 2,000 companies with Russian capital operating in the republic.