More than six months after the outbreak of protests in Belarus, Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin stressed the close cooperation between the two countries. “Not a day goes by without our colleagues talking to each other and solving problems,” Putin said during a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi. After the meeting, which lasted about an hour, the two heads of state met on skis. On the sidelines of the meeting, Vladimir Putin announced, among other things, new deliveries to Belarus of the Russian vaccine against Covid, Sputnik V. “We must combine our efforts, also with our European colleagues”, he declared. Alexander Lukashenko, in turn, said his country wanted to develop its own vaccine by the fall.
The last time the two leaders met was in September. This meeting had also taken place in Sochi. At the time, Putin had promised his neighbor country in financial difficulty a credit of several billion. Today, the Kremlin leader said that cooperation between the industries of the two countries is more important than “direct financial support” from Moscow. Belarus’ economy is heavily dependent on Russia, which supplies it with oil and gas. Moscow, for its part, sees Belarus as a strategically important buffer zone.
Belarus has been going through a serious political crisis since the presidential elections on August 9. Lukashenko declared himself the winner, but the pro-democracy movement sees Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the real winner. Mass protests have taken place since the elections. The European Union no longer recognizes Lukashenko as the country’s president, while Russia has repeatedly called for reforms.
Observers expected Putin to use the meeting to talk about main opponent Viktor Babariko, who is in pre-trial detention in Belarus, but fragments of the conversation between the two leaders broadcast on state television did not. not revealed. Babariko, a former banker, wanted to face Lukashenko in the summer of 2020 in the presidential elections, but before the electoral battle really broke out he had been placed behind bars. Human rights activists consider him a political prisoner.