Belarus leader pledges allegiance to Russia ahead of vote

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Belarus’s authoritarian leader is vowing to maintain a close alliance with Russia despite the latest tensions as he seeks a sixth term in office amid a surge of opposition protests. President Alexander Lukashenko’s comments in a state-of-the-nation address ahead of Sunday’s election contrast with his diatribes against Russia last week. That’s when Belarus’s security agency arrested 33 Russian security contractors at a sanitarium outside the Belarusian capital on charges of planning to stage mass riots. Moscow has dismissed the accusations. Russia this year has sharply scaled down its subsidies, saying Belarus needs to accept closer economic integration.