Putin discusses Belarus protests with German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, August 18, during which they discussed the unrest in Belarus following the presidential elections on August 9.
According to Merkel’s press service, the German chancellor underscored that the Belarusian authorities should refrain from using violence against peaceful demonstrators, immediately release political prisoners, and enter into a national dialogue with society and the opposition to overcome the crisis.
The statement from the Kremlin says that during the conversation, Putin “emphasized [that] any outside attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus are unacceptable.”
During an address at a factory on Monday, August 17, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) claimed Merkel had called him “to talk.” The German government denied that this conversation ever took place.
Belarus has seen ongoing mass protests since the evening of August 9, when election officials announced that incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko had won his sixth consecutive term in office (he’s been in power for 26 years). The united opposition, led by presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya) didn’t recognize the official results of the vote.
During the first three days of protests, law enforcement officers violently dispersed crowds and arrested more than 7,000 demonstrators. Two people have been killed during the demonstrations so far, and many detainees have complained of being severely beaten while in custody.