Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday for talks with his counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, aimed at boosting "strong cooperation" in several areas between the two countries.
Lukashenko landed in Zimbabwe's capital city, Harare, for a two-day visit and was greeted by Mnangagwa and thousands of ruling party supporters.
The two countries are close allies of Russia. Belarus has backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, while Zimbabwe has claimed neutrality and refused to condemn Moscow.
The two leaders plan to meet on Tuesday. The talks are aimed at strengthening "existing excellent relations" in areas such as politics, mining and agriculture, Zimbabwe's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The visit is historic, as it is the first such undertaking to a sub-Saharan African nation, by President Lukashenko," the ministry said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. He was reelected in 2020 in a highly contested vote that was widely denounced as a sham, resulting in mass protests. Lukashenko's government cracked down violently on demonstrators, arresting more than 35,000 people and brutally beating thousands, according to The Associated Press.
Mnangagwa's reign has been shorter, coming into power in 2017 after the leader of the previous 37 years, Robert Mugabe, was forced to resign because of numerous human rights violations. Mnangagwa has faced similar controversies.
Both leaders have been accused by rivals and the West of being corrupt and limiting free speech by stifling dissent, accusations that Lukashenko and Mnangagwa have denied.
Some information from this report came from Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press.