The Director of Russian Foreign Intelligence accused the United States on Wednesday of protecting the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and allocating $ 20 million to promote the anti-government protests that erupted after the disputed presidential elections.

Sergey Naryshkin, director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, said that Washington had taken former presidential candidate Tikhanovskaya and other activists “under its wing” in a statement published by Russian news agencies.

Tikhanovskaya, a 38-year-old former teacher and English language translator and full-time mother, recently ran for president after her husband, popular video blogger Sergey Tikanovsky, was imprisoned.

Her campaign proved surprising success, and she claimed victory in the elections against Alexander Lukashenko, who had led the former Soviet country for 26 years.

Tikhanovskaya sought refuge in neighboring Lithuania after coming under official pressure and many of her prominent supporters have since been expelled from or imprisoned in Belarus.

Naryshkin said the West had begun preparing for the protests long before the August 9 elections, adding that the United States had given various rights groups $ 20 million in funding since last year.

He claimed that the money was earmarked for “independent bloggers,” while “experienced American trainers” trained the most promising activists in countries such as Poland and Ukraine.

“The protests from the beginning were well-organized and coordinated from outside,” Naryshkin said.

“According to the information of the Russian foreign intelligence service, the United States plays an important role in the current events in Belarus”.

Lukashenko has already leveled accusations against different countries over the widespread protests that called for an end to his rule, initially accusing Russia of seeking to destabilize his country, but later blaming countries such as Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Britain.

On Wednesday, Lukashenko said in a meeting with senior officials, “We know who is responsible for the protests and who wants something to happen in Belarus, so we do not let our guard down and we are ready to respond to any challenge”.

He added that the United States stands “in the first place” behind the protests through “the network of institutions in support of so-called democracy”.

He claimed that the organizers of the protests used a “reference point for the color revolutions,” referring to the ouster of pro-Kremlin leaders in former Soviet Union countries such as Ukraine.

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