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Belarus: Lukashenko hints at conditional departure

November 28, 2020

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he would not remain in his post if the protest-gripped nation adopts a new constitution. Since August, he has refused to negotiate with the opposition.

Alexander Lukashenko
Image: Maxim Guchek/BelTA/TASS/dpa/picture-alliance

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has remained in office despite August's widely disputed election, said on Friday that he would "not work as president" under a new constitution.

Lukashenko gave no timetable for his departure in remarks conveyed by his press service. The comments came during a visit to a Minsk hospital treating coronavirus patients, where Lukashenko donned protective gear, but no gloves.

It was his latest bid to proffer reform, in an apparent bid to appease protesters who have massed, almost every weekend since the disputed August 9 presidential election.

Lukashenko's remarks also came after his meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who urged Belarus' president of 26 years to consider a new constitution.

European prosecutors urged to intervene

From Lithuania's capital Vilnius, supporters of exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya publicly urged European prosecutors on Friday to investigate allegations of torture in their country.

"It's terrible in Belarus, and I don't think anything similar is happening anywhere in Europe. We need outside help, supporter Maksim Kharoshyn told journalists, referring to accounts of thousands detained and beaten.

An adviser to Tsikhanouskaya, Alexander Dobrovolski said — aside from a petition filed with Lithuanian prosecutors — similar requests had been sent to prosecutors in Poland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Several alleged victims of Belarusian police beatings now reside in these countries.

Lukashenko's regime denies torturing prisoners and claims protesters are backed by foreign powers. Torture in Belarus is punishable with five years in jail.

The European Union has long condemned what it describes as violent police crackdown on protesters while refusing to recognize Lukashenko as elected president.

Tsikhanouskaya, who says she won in August and is now based in Vilnius, did not attend Friday's news conference.

 ipj/rs (Reuters, dpa, AP)