Lukashenko calls Putin as demonstrators gather once again in Belarus
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has spoken with Russian president Vladimir Putin, as unrest continues in the wake of the Belarusian presidential election.
Lukashenko was reelected for a sixth time, in a vote the opposition, protesters, and independent observers have said was rigged.
His reelection was met with widespread protests, the biggest the country has seen in many years, which were met with violent repression by Belarusian authorities.
Lukashenko has claimed foreign powers are interfering in the country, and warned that Russia was also in danger. He has now spoken to his Russian counterpart, with the Kremlin announcing the two had discussed the situation.
“Both sides expressed confidence that all existing problems will be settled soon. The main thing is to prevent destructive forces from using these problems to cause damage to mutually beneficial relations of the two countries within the Union State,” said a statement on the Kremlin website.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko has rejected the possibility of foreign mediation, proposed in particular by Poland and two Baltic countries.
“We don’t need any foreign government, we don’t need any mediator,” Lukashenko told a government meeting on Saturday, quoted by the state agency Belta. On Wednesday, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland had proposed a mediation plan to set up a “national council” to resolve the ongoing political crisis.
State agency Belta reported on Monday Lukashenko won 80.23% of the vote, while his main opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former teacher, received just 9.9%.
She has now fled to Lithuania, from where she has called for mass peaceful protests in all major cities of Belarus, as she accused the authorities of creating a “bloodbath”.
Her husband, a former presidential candidate, was imprisoned during the election campaign.
There have been accusations that peaceful protesters have been tortured, after thousands of Belarusians were rounded up by police and detained in prisons. Many who have now been released claiming they were beaten and held in appalling conditions.
Amnesty International says there is mounting evidence of the widespread torture of protesters.
Killed protester was “shot” by police
The partner of the protester who died on Monday during protests in Minsk has accused the police of shooting him, dismissing the official account that her partner was killed when an explosive device he was about to throw at police blew up in his hand.
Elena German told The Associated Press that she was able to visit the morgue and see the body of Alexander Taraikovsky on Friday, saying: “There is a seam in the chest area — the hole was sewn up, but there is a black bruise; it’s small but we noticed. His hands and feet are completely intact, there are not even bruises…Obviously, it was a shot right in the chest.”
Belarus’ Interior Ministry has declined to comment on the situation, beyond its initial claim that a protester died because of a hand-held explosive.
German said she intends to seek a full investigation. She has called on a Belarusian human rights organisation for help, and wants international experts to take part in a probe.
“I am feeling outraged. I’m angry. That is why I want to achieve justice, ”she said.
About 500 people came to pay last respects to Taraikovsky, who lay in an open casket. As the coffin was carried out, many dropped to one knee, weeping and exclaiming “Long live Belarus.”
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, and is the only President Belarus has had. He has been labelled by some as the last dictator in Europe.