Russia accuses U.S. of promoting revolution in Belarus

MOSCOW, Sept 16- Russia on Wednesday accused Washington of trying to foment a revolution in Belarus, where it sent its defence minister for talks on military ties, in a sign that Moscow’s support for embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko was hardening. On Wednesday, Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, accused…

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW, Sept 16 (Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday accusedWashington of trying to foment a revolution in Belarus, whereit sent its defence minister for talks on military ties, in asign that Moscow’s support for embattled Belarusian leaderAlexander Lukashenko was hardening.

Mass protests since an Aug. 9 election marred byvote-rigging allegations have posed the biggest threat yet toLukashenko, and the Kremlin’s backing has become vital for hischances of extending his 26-year rule.

The former Soviet state farm boss travelled to Russia onMonday for his first talks with President Vladimir Putin sincethe crisis began, coming away with a $1.5 billion loan to propup his Soviet-style command economy.

On Wednesday, Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVRForeign Intelligence Service, accused Washington of workingbehind the scenes to overthrow Lukashenko in a coup, some ofMoscow’s strongest rhetoric over the crisis yet.

“Essentially we are talking about a poorly disguised attemptto organise another ‘colour revolution’ and ananti-constitutional coup, the goals and objectives of which havenothing to do with the interests of Belarusian citizens,” he wasquoted by RIA news agency as saying.

He accused Washington of funding anti-government bloggersand training activists through NGOs and of backing othersincluding opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who fledthe country for Lithuania amid a police crackdown.

“According to the SVR’s information, the United States isplaying a key role in Belarus,” he said.

Russia has long blamed the West for revolutions such asGeorgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution, Ukraine’s 2003-04 OrangeRevolution in which Russia said the West backed the protesters.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu flew into Minsk onWednesday and held talks with Lukashenko, who said he had askedPutin to supply Belarus with several types of weapon. He did notspecify which weapons he had requested from Putin.

Russia and Belarus are currently holding joint militarydrills that run until late September. Lukashenko said the twocountries should plan more drills of the same kind.

Moscow is a close ally that sees Belarus as a buffer againstNATO and a vital export corridor for its oil. But that supportbelies an awkward personal relationship between Putin andLukashenko, who for years has played Russia off against the Westin order to extract political gain from the Kremlin.

Echoing Naryshkin’s comments, Lukashenko accused the UnitedStates of partnering with Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic andUkraine to target his government.

“The tactics of the organisers were based on the classicAmerican textbook of colour revolutions,” he said.(Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by HughLawson)

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