Graphic shows timeline of election turmoil.
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Timeline of election turmoil in Belarus

By Duncan Mil

August 28, 2020 - Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an ominous warning on Thursday to protesters in Belarus. He announced the creation of a “certain reserve of law enforcement officers” at the request of Belarus’s authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

Speaking on Russian state television, he said the force was ready to be deployed. “We also agreed that it would not be used unless the situation gets out of control.”

Putin has resisted supporting Lukashenko’s fight for survival -- inviting worldwide condemnation and possibly new Western sanctions. Support also risks turning the generally pro-Russian population of Belarus into another hotbed of seething anti-Kremlin sentiment.

In the television interview, Putin stressed the cultural, linguistic and economic relations between Belarus and Russia, which he said bought 90 per cent of Belarusian agricultural exports. “We, of course, have certain obligations toward Belarus,” he added.

Putin indicated that Moscow would under no circumstances allow its neighbour to align more closely with the West and NATO as happened after a popular revolution in Ukraine in 2014.

Lukashenko has clung on to power in the face of unprecedented public pressure against his rule which began following the contested August 9 presidential election. On Friday, Lukashenko ordered half of the country’s army to enter combat preparedness in response to what he said were threats from the West.

PUBLISHED: 01/09/2020; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Associated Press, Getty Images
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