EU foreign minister: Belarus elections were 'neither free nor fair'
The EU’s foreign minister has slammed the violence against protesters in the wake of the presidential election in Belarus, calling the elections “neither free nor fair”.
Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement “the people of Belarus deserve better”, and have demonstrated a desire for change.
The reelection of Alexander Lukashenko for a sixth consecutive term as president of Belarus - the only president the country has ever had - has been met with large protests in the country, and scepticism about the fairness of the election abroad.
The main opposition to Lukashenko, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has fled to Lithuania. Her husband, who was also a former presidential candidate standing against Lukashenko, is currently in detention in Belarus.
In a statement Borrell said: “State authorities deployed disproportionate and unacceptable violence causing at least one death and many injuries. Thousands of people were detained and the crackdown on freedoms of assembly, media and expression intensified.
“We call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all detained. Furthermore, credible reports of domestic observers show that the electoral process did not meet the international standards expected of an OSCE participating State.”
“The people of Belarus deserve better,” he added, warning that the relationship between the EU and Belarus can “only get worse” given the circumstances.
He said the EU may take measures against those responsible for violence and falsifying election results.
Police officers were seen using flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets to push back thousands of protesters flooding the streets across the country for a second consecutive day on Monday.
According to an interior ministry spokeswoman, one man died in the latest demonstration after an explosive device detonated in his hands.
Dozens of people were injured, while 3,000 more were detained.
EU spokesperson Peter Stano said the bloc was calling for Belarus to "make sure that the choice, the real choice of the Belarusian people is reflected in these results."
Stano added "the authorities have to hear the voice of their people. They have to respect their fundamental rights."