Russia’s intelligence chief has accused the United States of instigating massive demonstrations against Belarus’ president that have entered their sixth week.
Protesters in Belarus are seeking the resignation of Alexander Lukashenko, denouncing his landslide re-election in the August 9 vote as rigged and demanding an end to his 26-year rule.
The US and the European Union have criticised the election as neither free nor fair, and urged Mr Lukashenko to start talks with the opposition – a call he has rejected.
Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, claimed in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Wednesday that the US has funded the Belarusian opposition and encouraged the protests.
“It effectively amounts to a thinly-veiled attempt to stage another ‘colour revolution’ and an anti-constitutional coup, the objectives and tasks of which have nothing in common with interests of citizens of Belarus,” Mr Naryshkin said, in a reference to the colour-coded uprisings that swept out unpopular leaders in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations.
Mr Naryshkin added that his agency has information that “the US is playing a key role in the current developments in Belarus”. He alleged that the US has earmarked tens of millions of dollars to finance Belarus’ opposition groups.
In a long speech to top Belarus officials on Wednesday, Mr Lukashenko accused the US and its allies of spearheading the push to unseat him through carefully prepared protests.
He charged that the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine all played a major role. All those countries have denied similar claims by Mr Lukashenko in the past.
“The Belarusian 2020 scenario is a combination of the most effective ‘colour’ destabilisation technologies that have been tested in various countries,” he said. “They obviously count on the scale and duration of protests to wear us down and exhaust our resources. We aren’t relaxing and stand ready to respond to any challenge.”
The pressure has pushed Mr Lukashenko to further cement ties with Russia, his main sponsor and ally. The neighbouring countries have a union agreement and maintain strong political, economic and military ties.
Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a new £1.15 billion loan to Belarus on Monday when he hosted Mr Lukashenko for four hours of talks in Sochi.
The Belarusian opposition has condemned Moscow for offering a financial lifeline, warning that it would tarnish future ties between the countries.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed Wednesday that Moscow sees Mr Lukashenko as Belarus’ legitimately elected leader.
Mr Naryshkin charged that the US has taken main opposition challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who moved to Lithuania after the vote under the authorities pressure, and other Belarusian opposition activists under its “close patronage” to promote them as future leaders of the country.