Russia accuses US of promoting revolution in Belarus, hardens stance
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday accused Washington of trying to instigate a revolution in Belarus, where it sent its defense minister for talks on military relations, a sign that Moscow’s support for besieged Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko hardened.
Mass protests since the August 9 elections marred by allegations of electoral fraud have posed the greatest threat to Lukashenko to date, and the support of the Kremlin has become vital to his chances of extending his 26-year reign.
The former boss of the Soviet state farm visited Russia on Monday for his first talks with President Vladimir Putin since the start of the crisis, winning a $ 1.5 billion loan to support his run economy. soviet style.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the Russian foreign intelligence service SVR, on Wednesday accused Washington of working behind the scenes to topple Lukashenko in a coup, one of Moscow’s strongest rhetoric about the crisis to date .
“We are basically talking about a poorly disguised attempt to organize another” color revolution “and an unconstitutional coup, whose aims and objectives have nothing to do with the interests of Belarusian citizens,” he said. he told the RIA news agency. saying.
He accused Washington of funding anti-government bloggers and training activists through NGOs and supporting others, including opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who fled the country for Lithuania in the middle. police repression.
“According to SVR information, the United States plays a key role in Belarus,” he said.
Russia has long blamed the West for revolutions such as the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2003-2004, in which Russia said the West supported protesters.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Minsk on Wednesday and spoke with Lukashenko, who said he asked Putin to supply Belarus with several types of weapons.
He did not say what weapons he requested from Putin and the Kremlin subsequently denied that Putin and Lukashenko discussed the supply of new weapons to Belarus, the TASS news agency reported.
Russia and Belarus are currently organizing joint military exercises that run until the end of September. Lukashenko said the two countries should plan more exercises of the same kind.
Moscow is a close ally which sees Belarus as a buffer against NATO and a vital export corridor for its oil.
Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia will provide the first $ 1 billion tranche of its loan to Belarus by the end of the year and deliver the rest next year.
The loan, which will be denominated in Russian rubles and US dollars, will help Belarus and its state-owned enterprises honor their debts and support financial stability, Siluanov said.
Moscow’s support for Belarus belies an awkward personal relationship between Putin and Lukashenko, which for years played Russia against the West for political gain from the Kremlin.
Echoing Naryshkin’s comments, Lukashenko accused the United States of teaming up with Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Ukraine to target his government.
“The tactics of the organizers were based on the classic American manual of color revolutions,” he said.
Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, Maria Kiselyova and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Mark Potter