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Nato chief urges Russia not to meddle in Belarus crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Thursday vowed military support for close ally and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, while urging a peaceful resolution to the unrest and protests that erupted after the disputed 9 August vote.

FILE: Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg. Picture: United Nations.

BERLIN - Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday called on Russia not to meddle in the crisis engulfing Belarus following a disputed presidential election.

"Belarus is a sovereign and independent state. And nobody, including Russia, should interfere there," Stoltenberg was quoted as telling Germany's bestselling _Bild _daily.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Thursday vowed military support for close ally and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, while urging a peaceful resolution to the unrest and protests that erupted after the disputed 9 August vote.

In an interview with Bild, Stoltenberg said it would be "unacceptable" for the Belarusian regime to use violence to quash peaceful opposition protests.

"President Lukashenko and the regime in Minsk must ensure that the people of Belarus can also decide and determine the future of Belarus," he was quoting as saying, in comments translated into German.

Lukashenko has dismissed calls to resign or host new elections, instead accusing Western countries and Russia of stirring political unrest.

Putin said he would only send in military backing if "the situation starts to get out of control".

But the Russian leader also called on the authorities in Minsk and the opposition to "find a way out" of the crisis peacefully.

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