Russia sets up law enforcement unit on Lukashenko’s request to aid Belarus — Putin

Russia has set up a backup law enforcement unit on the request of incumbent President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, but it will not be used so far, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday in an interview with the 60 Minutes program on the Rossiya-1 TV channel.

“Alexander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] has asked me to form a backup law enforcement unit, and I have done so. However, we also agreed that it won’t be used unless the situation gets out of control,” the President said.

He explained that the unit would not be used “unless extremist elements hiding behind political slogans cross certain lines,” namely, unless they begin to “torch houses, banks, try seizing administrative buildings and so on.”

“However, Alexander Grigoryevich and I decided that there is no need for that yet, and I hope that there won’t be one. This is why we are not using this backup unit,” Putin explained.

So far, Putin and Lukashenko have discussed the situation in Belarus four times over the phone. Besides, the Russian leader discussed the current events in Belarus with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the European Council Charles Michel.

Protests erupted in Belarus after a disputed presidential vote, which saw incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko win with over 80 percent. The EU and US have rejected the 9 August Belarus vote as neither free nor fair. The EU is preparing sanctions against officials it accuses of rigging the result to deliver Mr Lukashenko’s victory and of cracking down on the opposition movement.

At least 13 journalists were detained in the centre of the capital, Minsk, on Thursday ahead of a planned opposition protest. The interior ministry said they had been taken to a police station for identity checks and would be released if their accreditation was correct.

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