Putin pushes for more integration with Belarus after election unrest

Source: Reuters | August 10, 2020 | Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Monday he wanted neighbouring Belarus to reactivate stalled plans for more integration with Russia after a contested election win left Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, an on-off Russian ally, on the defensive.

Putin made his suggestion as the opposition in Belarus rejected official election results handing Lukashenko a landslide re-election victory, saying that talks needed to begin on a peaceful transfer of power.

Thousands of people unhappy with the results clashed with police across Belarus on Sunday night.

The Russian leader has long pushed for closer ties with Minsk under the auspices of a unified state, something Lukashenko has so far rejected, accusing Russia of wanting to swallow up his country of 9.5 million people.

Belarus is a key transit country for Russian oil flowing to the West, and Moscow has long viewed it as a useful buffer zone between itself and NATO.

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