Top Russian diplomat says ‘ready to talk with everyone’, sees ‘no problems’ meeting Belarusian opposition leader Tikhanovskaya
As protests in Belarus enter their third month, one of Russia’s leading diplomats has emphasized that Moscow always listens to all sides and sees no problem in informal UN meetings with opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
When asked about several UN-organized meetings with Belarusian opposition figures, Moscow’s permanent representative at the United Nations in New York Vasily Nebenzya told RIA Novosti that he has indeed spoken with Tikhanovskaya and sees “no problems from our side.We are ready to talk with everyone.”
There was a so-called Arria formula meeting, organized by Estonia. Yes, Tikhanovskaya was there. We talked. We never deny anyone a word, unlike our [Western partners].
Tikhanovskaya stood as the main challenger to long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko in August's Belarusian elections. While the incumbent president claimed victory with a reported 80 percent of the vote, the opposition and many international observers claim the poll was rigged. Tens of thousands have since taken to the streets, with bloody clashes against security forces leaving hundreds injured and at least six dead.
While Moscow recognized Lukashenko as the winner, offering the embattled leader a $1.5 billion loan to keep his country’s economy afloat, it has expressed concern over his handling of the situation. Earlier this month, Russian diplomats sought to distance themselves from a decision to put Tikhanovskaya, who had fled to neighboring Lithuania, on an international wanted list, arguing they had only done so under the terms of the Union State treaty between the two countries.
Earlier this month, RT reported that Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief had been dispatched to Minsk in order to explain to Lukashenko the gravity of the mass protests. According to one foreign policy expert with close ties to the Kremlin, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin, found that the veteran leader “did not realise the seriousness of the situation.”
Clashes over the weekend reportedly left one Belarusian activist dead after a beating from police.
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