Moscow has disbanded a law enforcement reserve unit stationed on its border with Belarus following talks between the presidents of the two countries. The force was formed last month at Minsk’s request and raised eyebrows abroad.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko, met in Sochi on Monday. The decision to dismantle the formation was one of a variety of subsequent announcements, but flew somewhat under the radar.
“An important outcome of the talks between both presidents in Sochi is the agreement on Russia dismantling the backup law enforcement and National Guard unit that was established near the Russian-Belarusian border and on transferring people to their permanent dislocation sites,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Last month, Putin said in an interview with Russian TV that Moscow has certain obligations before Belarus within the CSTO (a mutual defence alliance similar to NATO) and the Union State between two countries.
He said that on Lukashenko’s request, Russia had formed a backup law enforcement unit, adding that the unit would not be used “unless extremist elements hiding behind political slogans cross certain lines,” namely, unless they begin to “torch houses, banks, to try seizing administrative buildings.” The Russian leader expressed hope that there would be no need in using this unit.
Anti-government protests have been ongoing in Belarus since the disputed August 9 elections. According to official figures, Belarus’ long-term leader Lukashenko secured over 80 percent of votes. The opposition has rejected the results, accusing the authorities of grossly falsifying the outcome.