Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday there was no need for outside mediation over the unrest in Belarus and accused foreign powers of using the crisis to interfere in Belarus, Russia’s TASS and Interfax news agencies reported.

Lavrov said statements by European Union countries were driven by the geopolitics and that he hoped the Belarusian opposition would be ready to enter into talks with the authorities in Belarus.

He further said that authorities recognize that elections in Belarus “could have been held better”.

Belarus, a close Russian ally, is mired in a political crisis with protesters angry over what they say was a rigged presidential election on August 9. ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

They have been calling on veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko to step down. He has refused, saying they are part of a foreign-backed plot to destabilize the country.

France, Germany, and European Union Council President Charles Michel have all urged Russia to push for dialogue to end the crisis peacefully after security services brutally broke up peaceful demonstrations calling for the long-ruling strongman to quit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his country could intervene in the crisis but has also warned against “unacceptable” foreign interference in Belarus or pressure on its leadership.

The EU is already working on a new round of sanctions against Belarus, targeting those involved in allegedly fixing the August 9 vote and in the bloody repression of protests, which have shaken Lukashenko’s grip on the ex-Soviet republic as never before.

Quick flight

A Russian government plane used to carry senior government officials, including the head of the FSB security service, has made a quick flight to Belarus and back, landing in Moscow in the early hours of Wednesday, flight tracking data shows.

Tracking data showed the plane, a Tupolev Tu-214 which is also a command and control center, flew to Minsk from Moscow on Tuesday before landing back in Moscow in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Attention is firmly focused on how Russia will respond to the biggest political crisis facing an ex-Soviet neighbor since 2014 in Ukraine when Moscow intervened militarily after a friendly leader was toppled by public protests.