Putin and Lukashenko discuss arrest of 33 suspected Russian mercenaries in Belarus
Russian President Vladimir Putin had a phone call with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) on Friday, August 7 — just two days before the presidential elections in Belarus.
According to a statement from the Kremlin, Putin and Lukashenko “exchanged views” on the arrest of 33 Russian citizens in Belarus that took place on July 29. Officials in Minsk claim that these men are mercenaries from the Russian private military company “Wagner” who planned to incite riots ahead of the presidential elections.
Spokespeople for the Belarusian president reported that “the presidents agreed to study every available fact as substantively and thoroughly as possible, in order to establish the real reasons behind the situation, find the perpetrators, and bring them to justice.”
According to Lukashenko’s press service, Putin spoke about the need to “counter negative trends and the actions of third forces,” which could damage relations between Russia and Belarus.
The 2020 presidential election campaign in Belarus has already been deemed the openly dirtiest in the country’s history. Alexander Lukashenko’s main political rivals — Viktor Babariko (Viktar Babarika) and Valery Tsepkalo (Valeryy Tsapkala) — were banned from running in the elections. Babariko was then arrested on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, and Tsepkalo fled the country. Lukashenko’s main competitor is now opposition politician Svetlana Tikhankovskaya (Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya) — who entered the race after her husband, opposition blogger Sergey Tikhanovsky (Syarhey Tsikhanousky), was banned from participation and jailed.