Jumat, 14 Agustus 2020

Belarus Opposition Leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya calls for more protests, EU to impose sanctions - ABC News

Belarus Opposition Leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called for more protests and an election recount, piling pressure on authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko as he faces the biggest challenge in his 26 years in power.

In a video posted on YouTube from self-imposed exile in Lithuania, Ms Tsikhanouskaya asked supporters to demand an official investigation into allegations that Lukashenko rigged last Sunday's presidential election.

At least two protesters were killed and thousands detained in a violent crackdown this week.

"Belarusians will never again want to live with the old authorities," Ms Tsikhanouskaya said.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has rejected the results of Belarus' election.(AP)

Germany's Foreign Minister, meanwhile, said the European Union will impose new sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible for cracking down on protests.

"What happened in Belarus in the last few days is completely unacceptable and calls for a clear reaction of the EU," Haiko Maas told reporters.

"We aim to put certain persons who are known and took part in crimes against peaceful protesters under the EU sanctions regime."

Peaceful protests roll on in Minsk

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Friday for a sixth consecutive day demanding that Mr Lukashenko step down.

Crowds grew to more than 20,000, filling Independence Square in central Minsk, the capital.

About a dozen soldiers guarding the nearby government headquarters lowered their riot shields in what the demonstrators saw as a sign of solidarity, and women rushed to embrace and kiss the guards.

Women embrace a soldier guarding the Belarusian Government building, in an exaggerated show of friendliness.
Russia claims external forces are trying to destabilise Belarus through the protests.(AP: Sergei Grits)

As the protesters rallied on the square, Mr Lukashenko dismissed them as puppets manipulated from abroad.

During a meeting with top law enforcement officials, he defended the crackdown as a justified response to violence against police by some of the protesters.

Nevertheless, the Government earlier apologised for the use of force as it freed more than 2,000 protesters from detention.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting.
President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years.(AP: Andrei Stasevich)

Several bore heavy bruises and complained of beatings, cramped conditions and starvation rations inside the cells. The Government denied abusing detainees.

"The Belarusians will never want to live under the current Government," Ms Tsikhanouskaya said.

She also announced she was setting up a coordination council to help ensure a "peaceful transition of power".

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Belarusians protest against police violence and election results.

Belarus at odds with Western powers

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bloc's chief executive, previously called for sanctions on those "who violated democratic values or abused human rights in Belarus".

Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei told his Swiss counterpart in a call that Minsk was ready for "constructive and objective dialogue with foreign partners" about issues related to the election, the state news agency BelTA reported.

Russia, which has nudged Mr Lukashenko into accepting closer political and economic ties, this week expressed concern over what it depicted as attempts by external forces to destabilise Belarus.

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Hundreds of women show solidarity with protesters in Belarus

Belarus, however, returned a group of 32 Russian nationals to Russia after detaining them and accusing them of being mercenaries.

Belarus arrested the men last month and said they had sought to destabilise the country prior to the presidential election.

Russia dismissed that accusation and described the men as employees of a private security firm. Moscow said the men were only passing through the Belarusian capital of Minsk on their way to other countries and that they had been wrongly detained.

People light flares and wave Belarusian flags to support Belarusian opposition in front of Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.
People protest in support Belarusian opposition in front of Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.(AP: Efrem Lukatsky)

Mr Lukashenko, a 65-year-old who once ran a Soviet collective farm, has faced increasing anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as well as a sluggish economy and civil rights.

The official election result handed him a landslide victory with 80 per cent of the vote, compared to around 10 per cent for Ms Tsikhanouskaya.

Washington said the vote "was not free and fair".


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2020-08-14 19:04:00Z

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