Alexander Lukashenko has held telephone talks with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin after warning that the protests sweeping his country were “not just a threat to Belarus”.
“Defending Belarus today is nothing less than defending all of our space,” he said, according to state news agency Belta. “If Belarusians don’t hold out, this wave will roll over there.”
The Kremlin warned against “destructive forces that want to damage the two countries’ mutually beneficial co-operation,” and said the two men had expressed “certainty that all the problems that have arisen will soon be resolved.”
Tens of thousands of people across Belarus have protested against Mr Lukashenko’s disputed win in last Sunday’s presidential election.
A violent police crackdown during which nearly 7,000 people were arrested — and many tortured — initially suppressed the rallies before galvanising them on Thursday.
Factory workers from heavily subsidised Belarus state enterprises, the core of Mr Lukashenko’s political base, went on strike to call for new elections and an end to the police violence.
Mr Lukashenko’s comments were a clear appeal to Mr Putin to defend himself against the unrest, an unprecedented phenomenon in the collective farm boss’s 26-year rule and an unthinkable event just a few days