Belarus protests: Lukashenko raises prospect of fresh elections | News | DW | 08.09.2020

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Belarus protests: Lukashenko raises prospect of fresh elections

President Lukashenko has refused to rule out holding fresh elections in an interview with Russian media. An exiled Belarusian opposition leader has called for international sanctions against the regime in Minsk.

On Tuesday, President Alexander Lukashenko acknowledged that he may have "overstayed" his time in office, but said he was the only person capable of protecting Belarus for now.

The 66-year-old, who has been in power since 1994, said a rerun of a disputed presidential vote could only be held after constitutional changes, without giving further details.

"We are ready to carry out the reform of the constitution," Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. "After that I do not exclude early presidential elections."

Read more: Under threat from authorities, Belarusians go into exile

Lukashenko said he would refuse to hold talks with opposition politicians after EU governments called for "dialogue."

Interfax reported that Lukashenko told a Moscow radio station that he would not negotiate with the opposition Coordination Council "because I do not know who these people are."

'If Belarus falls, Russia will be next'

Lukashenko also suggested that Russia would be next if his regime falls in the face of a wave of mass protests.

"You know what we concluded with the Russian establishment and leadership? If Belarus falls, Russia will be next," state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Lukashenko as saying after he spoke to reporters from numerous Russian media outlets.

Belarus President Lukaschenko

President Lukashenko addressed members of the Russian media in Minsk on Tuesday

Tsikhanouskaya urges sanctions

Lukashenko's rival from the disputed August 9 election, the exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has called for sanctions against the president and his aides.

"My country, my nation, my people now need help," Tsikhanouskaya said in a speech via videolink on Tuesday to the Council of Europe, a European human rights watchdog based in Strasbourg, France, separate from the EU.

"We need international pressure on this regime, on this one individual desperately clinging onto power," she said. "We need sanctions on individuals who issue and execute criminal orders that violate international norms and human rights."

Read more: Tsikhanouskaya urges UN to act

Tsikhanouskaya, 37, fled Belarus for Lithuania after the contested election in August, fearing for her safety.

She claimed victory, with the opposition alleging widespread fraud. But election authorities in Belarus claimed that Lukashenko had won more than 80% of the vote.

Weeks of protests

Protesters have taken to the streets across Belarus over the past month to demonstrate against Lukashenko. More than 7,000 people have been arrested amid widespread reports of police brutality and torture.

Read more: Propaganda in Belarus: Why state media journalists quit

Last month, the European Union said the election was "neither free or fair." Foreign ministers from the 27 countries agreed to introduce sanctions against those responsible for the violence and alleged electoral fraud.

The bloc's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has called for the "immediate release" of protesters and political prisoners.

jf, jsi/dr (dpa, Interfax, Reuters, AFP) 

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