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Lukashenko claims to uncover Western-backed plot

July 2, 2021

Belarus' strongman president has closed the border to Ukraine and claimed, without evidence, that his government stopped a Western-backed plot involving weapons smuggling from Ukraine. Kyiv vehemently denied the claims.

Lukaschenko salutes during a parade in 2018
Lukashenko often accuses the West of attempting to overthrow himImage: Getty Images/AFP/S. Gapon

Belarus' president, Alexander Lukashenko, said Friday that Belarusian authorities have uncovered "terrorist sleeper cells," which he claimed were planning to overthrow his government.

The authoritarian leader claimed that Germany, Ukraine, the United States, Poland and Lithuania were involved. He didn't provide any evidence for the claims but said he would provide details later.

Lukashenko said he would raise these claims with the "leaders of Germany," including Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German government has not yet responded to Lukashenko's accusations.

What did Lukashenko claim?

Lukashenko said Western-backed saboteurs were planning to blow up a Russian naval communications facility in Vileyka, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

He claimed that the weapons and materials for the alleged plot were smuggled into Belarus over the Ukrainian border, adding that Belarusian authorities were able to stop the plan from being carried out.

Supporting political prisoners in Belarus

He said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin has "serious" discussions about the alleged plot, and that "all participants — including those who organized and carried it out — were found and arrested within two days." He did not specify who had been detained.

Lukashenko also said he had ordered officials to close the country's border with Ukraine to prevent "a huge amount of arms" from coming into Belarus.

Ukraine 'categorically' denies claims

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Kyiv had not yet received any official notifications about the closure of the border on the part of Belarus."

Lukashenko and Putin on a boat
Russian President Vladimir Putin is Lukashenko's strongest backerImage: Sergei Ilyin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

Nikolenko also told Ukrainian media that the ministry "categorically denies" Lukashenko's statement about the supply of weapons from Ukraine, adding that Lukashenko was using the claims to "intimidate" the Belarusian people.

"The policy of Ukraine is to support the legitimate interests of the Belarusian people, who deserve a decent life in a democratic country, where human rights and the rule of law are respected," Nikolenko said.

Who opposes Lukashenko?

Lukashenko has faced widespread condemnation from the West since holding on to power after an election last year that his opponents and European election observers say was fraudulent.

The popular uprising against his continued rule, and the ensuing crackdown by Belarusian authorities, has resulted in several rounds of EU and US sanctions against Belarusian companies and people in the president's inner circle.

The authoritarian president, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 27 years, often claims Western countries are fomenting the ongoing domestic protest against his rule.

Critical journalists and civil society in Belarus are often targeted on charges of taking part in plots against the government and subject to arbitrary imprisonment.

wmr/sms (AP, AFP, Interfax)

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