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Pressure on Belarusian president, external interference ‘counterproductive’: Putin tells EU

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko or external interference in the internal affairs of Belarus will be counterproductive.

The Russian leader made the remarks in a telephone conversation with European Council President Charles Michel on Thursday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“Russia pointed out that any pressure on the leadership of the sovereign Belarusian state and foreign interference in domestic processes taking place in the country were counterproductive,” noted the statement, carried by TASS news agency.

The two sides agreed that an early normalization of the situation in Belarus suited the interests of “both Russia and the European Union (EU)”, the Kremlin added.

The development came just a day after the European bloc announced that it rejected the results of August 9 presidential election in Belarus, claiming it was not “free and fair.”

The EU also said that it would soon “impose sanctions against a substantial number of individuals responsible,” for what it claimed as “violence, repression and the falsification of election results.”

Lukashenko won Belarus’ presidential election on August 9 by a landslide, securing a sixth term in office. But his political opponents organized riots and claimed electoral fraud. The allegations were echoed by Western states.

With backing from the West, the Belarusian opposition has formed a so-called coordination council to purportedly oversee a transition of power. The president has described the formation of the body as a coup attempt.

The EU and the US have long accused Lukashenko of human rights violations because of his close ties with Russia. The European bloc has also used those allegations to impose sanctions on the 65-year-old president but removed them in 2016.

The Belarusian president has voiced concerns about a potential military action by NATO against his country. On Tuesday, he put Belarusian troops along the country’s western border on full combat alert.

Minsk opens criminal case against attempt to 'seize power'

Earlier on Thursday, Belarusian authorities launched a criminal case against the opposition-run coordination council, accusing it of an illegal attempt to seize power.

The so-called council held its first meeting this week and called for new elections.

“The creation and activities of such a council are aimed at seizing power and undermining the national security of Belarus,” Prosecutor General Alexander Konyuk said in a video statement, adding that the body’s establishment was “unconstitutional.”

He further said that investigators were opening a investigation into “calls for actions aimed at undermining national security.” Such a charge can carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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