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US diplomat to visit Lithuania, Russia for Belarus talks

AFP , Saturday 22 Aug 2020
Stephen Biegun
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks at a news briefing with South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young after their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea, July 08, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will visit Lithuania and Russia next week for talks on Belarus amid post-election unrest in the ex-Soviet state, officials said Saturday.

The number two US diplomat will meet Lithuania's foreign and defence ministers "to discuss the situation in Belarus, bilateral relations, NATO and defence issues", the Baltic state's foreign ministry said.

Biegun will then visit Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday, a Russian diplomatic source told news agency Interfax.

NATO and EU member Lithuania has given shelter to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled after a disputed presidential election on August 9.

It has also sought to consolidate international support for protests in its eastern neighbour against President Alexander Lukashenko's 26-year rule, after he claimed a landslide victory in the ballot.

Vygaudas Usackas, a former EU ambassador to Russia, told AFP that Biegun's visit to the region "can be seen as readiness to play a role in resolution of the Belarusian crisis, including vis-a-vis Moscow".

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