Riot police gather in Minsk, Belarus to break up an anti-government rally on August 30, 2020.
CNN  — 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his “warm wishes” to his embattled Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday, as thousands of anti-government protesters attended a rally in Minsk and a convoy of military tanks was seen in the city.

In a phone call, Putin passed on his regards on Lukashenko’s 66th birthday, according to a statement posted on the official Kremlin website.

The statement said the pair will meet in Moscow in the “coming weeks,” adding that they have agreed on “further strengthening” relations and “expanding” cooperation between their countries.

The conversation between the two leaders came as thousands of people took to the streets of the Belarusian capital on Sunday to protest against the results of the disputed August 9 election.

For their participation in Sunday’s pro-democracy protest, 125 people were arrested, according to Russian state news agency TASS, citing Belarusian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova.

Elsewhere in the city, a video broadcast by local news outlet TUT.BY shows at least eight armored tanks moving in a convoy.

The footage comes the day after 19 Belarusian journalists had their accreditation to work for the BBC and other foreign media outlets removed by the authorities, with two Associated Press reporters being deported from the country on the same day.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) told CNN that 19 Belarusian journalists were affected by the decision to remove press licenses on Saturday.

BBC and Associated Press (AP) staff were among the reporters affected by the decision.

Charlotte Morgan, the BBC’s Head of Communications, told CNN: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this stifling of independent journalism.

“We call upon the Belarusian authorities to revoke this decision and allow our journalists to continue doing their jobs,” Morgan added.

The statement also said that the British broadcaster believes it is “vital” that Belarusians can access “impartial, independent information” about events that are taking place in their country.

Journalists deported

The news agency also said two of its Moscow-based journalist who had been covering the recent protests in Belarus were deported to Russia on Saturday.

In another move against press freedom, the Belarusian authorities detained almost 50 journalists earlier this week, according to the BAJ.

Responding to the arrests, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter: “I condemn the mass detention of over 50 journalists last night in Belarus, including from @BBC, local & international media.”

Of the journalists that were detained, all except four, who refused to hand over their phones, were later released.

On Friday, Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, reiterated that the bloc “does not recognize the result of the election” and criticized the way the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy supporters.

Speaking on Friday, Borrell said: “This designation shall include individuals at the high political level.”

“We once again express our full support to Belarus’ sovereignty and independence and condemn the violent repression of the Belarusian people,” he added.

CNN’s James Frater contributed to this report.