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Vladimir Putin Throws A Lifeline To Belarusian President


Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown something of a lifeline to the president of Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko has faced mass protests since last month's disputed presidential election, a vote that protesters say he rigged. Charles Maynes reports from Moscow.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Lukashenko arrived today in the Russian city of Sochi, seeking much-needed Russian support.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Russian).

MAYNES: For the past four weeks, Belarusians have taken to the streets, demanding his resignation with a crowd of over 100,000 again swamping downtown Minsk on Sunday. In remarks before cameras, the leaders' body language told the story - Lukashenko, leaning hard and Putin's direction, repeatedly wiping his brow. Putin leaned back in his chair and suggested the political crisis in Belarus was an internal affair for the time being.


VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: We want Belarusians themselves, without prompting and pressure from outside, to sort out the situation in a calm manner, said Putin.

YAUHENI PREIHERMAN: You know, everyone understands that Moscow has now become the kingmaker in the context of this political crisis.

MAYNES: That's analyst Yauheni Preiherman in Minsk. He says Putin is offering only limited aid to Lukashenko for now - a $1.5 billion loan for Belarus' struggling economy. Also, Russian paratroopers will take part in exercises in Belarus this week. But Preiherman says Moscow is aware too tight a Kremlin embrace of Lukashenko risks alienating Belarusians who, until now, haven't been trying to pull out of Russia's orbit. Indeed, today Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko's opponent in the August election, said Putin had chosen dialogue with a dictator over the Belarusian people. For NPR News, I'm Charles Maynes in Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "SOURCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.