Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko put in a call to his neighbor and fellow autocrat Vladimir Putin as protests in the Eastern European nation continue to grow.
“There is a need to contact [Russian President Vladimir] Putin so that I can talk to him now, because it is not a threat to just Belarus anymore,” Belerusian state media reported. “Defending Belarus today is no less than defending our entire space, the union state. … Those who roam the streets, most of them do not understand this.”
The two leaders have reportedly spoken by phone according to Interfax, Reuters reported.
Often known as Europe’s last dictator, Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years, serving as a Cold War throwback, even while the rest of the continent embraced democracy.
Lukashenko has faced days of protests after a disputed election, which his critics say he attempted to rig. Fearing for her life, opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania where she had continued to urge followers to keep up the protests.
Both Belarus and Russia have accused outside forces of being behind the protests.