Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time called on the self-proclaimed president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to start a dialogue with the Belarusian opposition. "Yes, we know that the situation in Belarus. Although it has calmed down inside the country, but, nevertheless, there are problems, and we are well aware of this and, of course, call for a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition," said Putin, speaking at an expanded meeting of the Board of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow.
At the same time, he promised that "Russia will certainly continue its policy of strengthening ties and deepening integration processes" with Belarus. "We will implement all 28 recently adopted sectoral union programs for establishing a common economic space, moving to a coordinated macroeconomic, tax, banking and credit policy," said Putin.
"I welcome the calls for dialogue, but no dialogue will begin in prison. All political prisoners should be released, violence should be stopped," Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya commented on Putin's statement. She was Lukashenko's main rival in the August 9 presidential election, but a few days after the election, she had to leave the country due to pressure from the authorities. On October 16, it was reported that Minsk put Tikhanovskaya on the interstate wanted list. Several criminal cases have been initiated against her in Belarus.