Lithuania says Russia is using Belarus crisis to try to draw it closer into its orbit

FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius attends a news conference, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Riga, Latvia May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Tuesday that Russia was trying to use a political crisis in Belarus to draw Minsk closer into its orbit by pressuring it to agree to closer integration.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday he wanted neighbouring Belarus to reactivate stalled plans for more integration with Russia after a contested election win left Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, an on-off Russian ally, on the defensive.

Linkevicius, speaking to Reuters in a video call, called Russia’s actions another “vector of instability” for Belarus.

“When the (Belarusian) government is weaker, it’s logical there’s pressure. It’s an additional challenge,” he said.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Jon Boyle