Putin hosts Belarusian president for talks

Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinChris Inglis formally sworn in as national cyber director Rand Paul requests probe into allegations NSA spied on Tucker Carlson Ukraine says Russian-linked hackers attacked its navy’s website MORE on Tuesday hosted a meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko amid sanctions imposed on Belarus by the U.S. and other nations over the Eastern European country’s diversion of a May flight to arrest an opposition journalist. 

The Associated Press reported that at the beginning of the talks in St. Petersburg, Lukashenko commented on the economic sanctions, explaining, “We will deal with terrorism and all that, but the economy is the most important thing.” 

“We will resist that economic blow together with Russia,” he said, adding that Western countries will not be able to “monopolize the international agenda and put pressure on us.”

After the leaders’ five-hour meeting Tuesday, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia and Belarus, which share a union agreement that promotes economic, political and military cooperation, agreed that Belarus would receive Russia’s natural gas tax next year at this year’s prices, the AP reported. 

The discussions also reportedly included potential new loans from Russia and efforts to boost cooperation in different areas, including energy, taxes and customs. 

Following the meeting, Lukashenko thanked Putin for the “very serious support” from the Kremlin, and Putin identified Belarus as a “reliable and stable partner,” the AP reported. 

The Belarusian economy has been hit hard by sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union following Belarus’ May order for a Ryanair flight traveling from Lithuania to Greece to land in Belarus. 

Upon landing, authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a journalist and vocal critic of Lukashenko, as well as his girlfriend, both of whom were passengers on the flight. 

President Biden

Joe BidenPoll: Biden approval on coronavirus slips 2 percentage points Overnight Defense: Top US commander in Afghanistan departs | US sends delegation to Haiti after request for troops | Senate Dems propose .3B for Pentagon in Capitol security bill Protests escalate US-Cuba tensions MORE and other world leaders condemned the move by Belarus, which has been known to crack down on independent media outlets critical of the government. 

According to the AP, the Belarusian Association of Journalists said Tuesday that authorities had raided three additional news organizations after more than 30 offices and apartments of journalists were searched last week. 

Currently, there are 39 journalists in custody in Belarus, according to the journalists’ association. 

Belarus has also faced continued unrest among its citizens following the August 2020 election that gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office, with many claiming the contest was rigged in his favor. 

The government has cracked down on demonstrations — authorities have arrested more than 35,000 people, according to the AP. 

Lukashenko on Tuesday accused Western-backed organizations of fueling discontent in his country, saying, “We have started to work very actively to deal with all those NGOs,…which were effectively promoting terror instead of democracy.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation imposed a final order for air travel restrictions on Belarus, mandating that ticket sales for flights between Belarus and the U.S. be banned immediately. 

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