Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he stands ready to send police to Belarus if protests there turn violent, but sees no such need yet.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that their countries could unite their troops in the event of a threat from the West, the Belta state news agency reported.
Lukashenko, who is facing the biggest challenge in his 26 years in power after protests and strikes erupted following a contested August 9 election, added that not a single Russian soldier has yet crossed the border into Belarus.
Earlier on Friday, Lukashenko ordered half of the country's army to enter combat preparedness in response to what he said were threats from the West.
EU rejects Russia intervention
The EU's diplomatic chief has also urged Russia not to intervene in Belarus, after President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for the country's embattled leader.
The EU has rejected the official results of an August 9 poll in Belarus, which saw President Lukashenko re-elected with 80 percent of votes, and is preparing sanctions against his regime for ballot fraud and a violent crackdown on opposition protesters.
"I have heard many times from Russia the mantra that this is a domestic internal affair for Belarus and they do not want external interference. I suppose it's also valid for themselves," EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell said at a meeting in Germany.
"It is solely for the Belarusian people to determine their own future. If Russia believes in the independence and sovereignty of a nation-state it will respect the wishes and democratic choices of the Belarusian people."
Putin also called on the Minsk authorities and the opposition to "find a way out" of the crisis peacefully, but the threat of military intervention by the Kremlin has raised the spectre of the crisis on the EU's doorstep taking a darker turn.
EU sanctions on Belarusian officials
The EU also agreed to impose sanctions on up to 20 senior Belarus officials suspected of election fraud and the crackdown on protesters and is likely to put President Lukashenko on its list at some point, the bloc’s foreign ministers said on Friday at a meeting in Berlin.
Borrell said the list would include "individuals at high political level" but looks unlikely to include Lukashenko himself, despite calls from some countries for him to be targeted.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told how she stressed the importance of Belarus' sovereignty in a recent call with Putin.
“I hope that such a unit won't be deployed,” she told reporters in Berlin.
Merkel said she has also tried to call Lukashenko, but that he has refused to speak with her thus far.
OSCE to promote dialogue
In the first four days of demonstrations that followed, Belarus security forces detained almost 7,000 people and injured hundreds with rubber bullets, stun grenades and clubs. At least three protesters died. Around 180 people were detained at rallies on Thursday.
In Vienna, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe offered to mediate between the two sides in Belarus, with chairman Edi Rama pledging not to “interfere in internal affairs,” but at the same time stressing human rights abuses must end.
The EU has supported proposals from the OSCE to promote dialogue in Belarus, one of the organisation's 57 member nations, and has said it stands ready to provide assistance to further them.
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OSCE Chairperson @ediramaal: We truly hope that there is a positive response to this offer from the Government of Belarus. I am ready to make it work - to engage, to listen, to understand and to support, in every possible way I can. https://t.co/FIWHx8WvCh— OSCE (@OSCE) August 28, 2020