MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 30th June, 2020) Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus are set to hold bilateral talks on Tuesday after attending the opening of a monument to Soviet soldiers who fought in the fierce Battles of Rzhev between 1942 and 1943 in World War II.
Putin invited Lukashenko to attend the ceremony, when they met at the June 24 military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The opening of the memorial was initially scheduled for May 9, but was postponed due to the pandemic.
The entire Soviet losses in the Battles of Rzhev exceeded 1.16 million servicemen, including about 400,000 killed, missing or captured. In his article, based on archives, Putin updated the figure to 1,342,888, noting that it is still not final.
The monument in the Tver Region was constructed at the initiative of veterans with money raised through public donations. The project was carried out by the Russian Military History Society with the support of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the Russian Ministry of Culture and the regional government.
Earlier, Lukashenko said that he was planning to raise the issue of foreign interference in the Belarusian presidential election at talks with Putin. According to the Belarusian leader, who is seeking a reelection, there are "puppet masters" behind the opposition from both the West and Russia. The Kremlin has denied having any intention to interfere in the process, saying that Minsk has not substantiated its allegations.
Belarus is also diversifying oil supplies to its refineries amid regular price differences with Russia. Earlier in June, it received the first batch of US oil. The tanker carrying 77,000 tonnes of crude oil for Belarus arrived in the Lithuanian port in Klaipeda. The oil was then shipped by train to the Naftan oil refinery in the Vitebsk Region in Belarus.