European Union leaders say the bloc will soon impose sanctions over Belarus elections that were "not free and fair." They also rejected the outcome of the poll that saw President Alexander Lukashenko claim victory.
EU leaders said on Wednesday they did not recognize the results of the disputed presidential elections in Belarus, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying the August 9 poll was "neither free nor fair."
The EU had "no doubt that there were massive violations of procedure at the elections," Merkel said following an emergency video conference. "And for this reason, the results of the elections cannot be recognized."
The official EU statement following the leaders' meeting read: "The EU has been following the developments in Belarus very closely and with increasing concern. The 9 August elections were neither free nor fair, therefore we do not recognize the results."
The elections saw President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 26 years, reelected for a sixth term in office. The election commission gave him 80% of the vote. Since the elections, the country has been in the grip of massive protests accusing the government of having rigged the election.
European Council President Charles Michel said the EU stood "at the side of the Belarusian people" and that the bloc would "soon" impose the sanctions it had announced against a "substantial" number of officials because of election fraud and violence against the protesters. The sanctions are to include EU travel bans and asset freezes.
"The people of Belarus deserve better. They deserve the democratic right to choose their leaders and shape the future," Michel said.
In 2016, the EU partially lifted previous sanctions imposed over Lukashenko’s human rights record.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday the EU would give €53 million ($63 million) originally earmarked for the Belarusian government to civil society in the country, victims of the state's crackdown on protesters, and the country's efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Belarusian media reported on Wednesday that a third protester had died during a demonstration in the southwestern city of Brest.
Rejected mediation attempt
In her remarks to reporters, Merkel said she had offered to speak with Lukashenko by phone, but that he had not taken up the offer.
"Mr. Lukashenko rejected the telephone call, which I regret. You can mediate only when you are in touch with all sides," she said.