Belarusian authorities said Wednesday they have detained dozens of Russian private military contractors days before Belarus’ presidential vote, a sign of escalating tensions between the two neighbors.
Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is seeking a sixth term in office in the Aug. 9 vote, has repeatedly accused Russia of trying to force Belarus to abandon its post-Soviet independence. Throughout his 26-year rule, the 65-year-old Lukashenko has relied on Russian subsidies and political support but has fiercely resisted Moscow’s efforts to gain control over Belarus’ economic assets.
The arrest of dozens of Russians accused of planning to destabilize Belarus amid the election campaign pushes political tensions between the countries to a new high. Some observers see the move as a campaign stunt by Lukashenko.
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