Putin Warns Belarus Protesters: Don’t Push Too Onerous

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MOSCOW – President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia warned protesters in Belarus on Thursday threateningly not to push too hard to overthrow the embattled president of their country Russia had formed a special reserve of security officers to restore order in the event of chaos in its western neighbor.

Mr. Putin said in an interview with Russian state television that he had ordered the creation of "a certain reserve of law enforcement officers" at the request of the authoritarian leader of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. He said the force had not yet been deployed because "we also agreed that they would not be deployed unless the situation got out of hand."

For the first time, Mr. Putin's statements contained the Kremlin's view of more than two weeks of protests in Belarus, which he described as "a very close country, perhaps the closest to us". While he said that after a controversial presidential election on August 9th, the Belarusians will have to decide for themselves about their own future, he said: “We are certainly not indifferent to what happens there.”

“For Putin Belarus is one existential matter question, ”said Andrei Kortunov, General Director of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization closely related to the Russian government.

Belarus is different from many former Soviet countries like the Baltic states, which never had much. Kortunov said that he established functioning democracies together with Russia and long ago. Rather, it is so close and similar to Russia that a successful shift to greater political pluralism in Belarus "would make it very difficult to argue that the current model we have in Russia is the only one that can ever exist."

Russia's own elections, including a nationwide vote in July on constitutional amendments allowing Putin to extend his rule until 2036, often resembled the controversial presidential election of August 9, in which Mr. Lukashenko called for a landslide victory. Putin cracked down on protesters in Moscow after the fraud-ridden elections in Russia in 2011, sparking a round of repression that largely managed to demobilize his opponents for years.

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