An official Belarus newspaper has accused Poland and Germany of organizing a coup. The Germany foreign ministry said the accusations are absurd. The EU has warned of new sanctions unless protesters are released.
Many protesters against Lukashenko have been arrested
State-controlled media in Belarus on Friday accused the intelligence services of Germany and Poland of trying to organize a coup during last month's presidential election in the former Soviet republic.
"These recriminations are totally absurd and have no basis," said German foreign ministry spokesperson Andreas Peschke in Berlin.
At a news conference, Polish foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki also dismissed the charges. "These are dramatic propaganda attempts bordering on the complete absurd. Talk of a coup is absurd," he was quoted as saying by PAP news agency.
The reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, led to huge protests and hundreds of arrests. Opponents and international observers denounced his landslide win on December 19 as fraudulent.
Four challengers for the presidency remain in custody.
Accusations in print
The Sovietskaya Belarussia newspaper, a mouthpiece of Lukashenko's administration, published transcripts of what it said were comments by opposition figures showing that a coup had been afoot. The transcripts included statements to police.
"There is no doubt that the special services, above all of Poland and Germany, played a part in the events of December 19," the newspaper said.
"Poland became a launch pad for organizing forces capable of overthrowing the legitimate authorities of Belarus. Special training camps were set up there for activists. The future ruling class was trained there," it added.
Warsaw and Berlin are prominent among the European Union states that have voiced concern about events in Poland's eastern neighbor.
Sovietskaya Belarussia said that the political opposition had been financed by the West: "Hundreds of thousands of dollars were brought to Minsk in suitcases, accompanied by happy smiles and assurances of correct behavior," it said.
The elections in December led to clashes with police.
Western governments have urged Lukashenko to free opposition activists and the EU has warned it could reinstate sanctions, including possibly a visa ban on the president and his top aides.
Philip Gordon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said on Thursday that the United States would consider shortly whether to re-impose sanctions on Belarus, eased two years ago.
The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus after a disputed ballot in 2006 but suspended their application in 2008 to encourage democratic reforms in a country of 10 million which is a transit route for Russian gas to the EU.
Author: Natalia Dannenberg (Reuters, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner