Russia could intervene in Belarus to back up the country’s beleaguered President as hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets to demand his resignation.
President Viktor Lukashenko, often dubbed Europe’s last dictator, has launched a brutal crackdown after claiming victory in an election that was widely seen as fixed.
Now the Kremlin is looking at using a joint defence treaty with Belarus to intervene to put down the protests.
Hundreds of people poured onto the streets in Belarus on Sunday to call for the country’s leader to resign
A group of protests march on the streets of Belarus after President Viktor Lukashenko launched a brutal crackdown after claiming victory in an election
Protesters demonstrate in the capital of Belarus after the president claimed victory
Mr Lukashenko, 65, has called Russian President Vladimir Putin twice as his fears of been overthrown by the protests have grown.
The Belarussian president claims to have won 80 per cent of the vote in an election earlier this month but the opposition have said the poll was fixed.
Up to 200,000 people took to the streets in the capital, Minsk, yesterday to demand Lukashenko’s resignation.
In the days after the election police and security protests used extreme violence in an attempt to stop demonstrations, using mass arrests and beatings.Thousands fill Belarus capital to protest Lukashenko re-election
The demonstrations were called by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 37, the leading opposition candidate who claims to have won the election but has now fled to Lithuania for her own safety.
Workers at state-owned factories that make cares and tractors went on strike on Friday, despite the president usually enjoying strong support among state employees.
His 26-year-long rule is under serious threat by the ongoing unrest and the protests have been described as the largest in the country’s post-Soviet independence.
Russia is prepared to assist and ‘solve the problems that have arisen’ from ‘external pressure’, comments that show the Kremlin is backing Lukashenko and his claims that the protests are part of a Western plot to oust him.
A woman holds up a poster after the Belarusian president claimed to have won 80 per cent of the vote in an election earlier this month
Hundreds of people march along the streets and call for the president’s resignation
A crowd of people raise their hands and lift up the Belarusian flag during a rally in Minsk, Belarus
Hundreds of protesters flood onto the street in protests against the 2020 Belarusian presidential election
He has claimed that Poland, Latvia and Lithuania are involved in a ‘build up of military might’ on the country’s borders and in response his regime has announced military exercises close to the Lithuanian frontier.
Yesterday he said: ‘NATO troops are at our gates. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and our native Ukraine are ordering us to hold new elections.
Mr Lukashenko added that Belarus would ‘die as a state’ if new polls were held.
He said: ‘I have never betrayed you and will never do so.’
Demonstrators raise their hands as they take part in a rally in front of the government building of Minsk
Hundreds of protesters march through the capital of Belarus following the presidential electionTV workers in Belarus leave their jobs to support election protestLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PreviousPlaySkipMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time1:10FullscreenNeed Text
As well as the rally in Minsk thousands of people took part in anti-Lukashenko protests in other towns and cities.
The Belarus Interior Ministry said there were no arrests at the rallies, although local media reported a few people had been detained.
State employees, including some police officers and state TV staff, have come out in support of the protests and some of the country’s biggest state-run plants, the backbone of Lukashenko’s Soviet-style economic model, have been hit by protests and walkouts.