Steve August 15, 2020
belarus:-baltic-states-call-for-new-‘transparent’-election-amid-protests

People attend a funeral ceremony on Saturday

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Reuters

Image caption

Thousand gathered in the capital, Minsk, on Saturday as protests over the vote continued

The leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have called on Belarus to hold “free and fair” elections following its disputed presidential vote.

In a joint statement, the three prime ministers called for a new election to be held with the involvement of international observers.

Mass protests erupted after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in the 9 August vote.

The result has been condemned with widespread allegations of vote-rigging.

On Friday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to prepare new sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible “for violence and falsification”. The US has also condemned the election as “not free and fair”.

The Central Election Commission says Mr Lukashenko won 80.1% of the vote and the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10.12%.

But Ms Tikhanovskaya insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60% to 70%.

Protests against President Lukashenko continued on Saturday, with thousands turning out in the capital Minsk.

What did the Baltic leaders say?

In a joint statement on Saturday, the prime ministers of the three Baltic republics – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – “expressed deep concern at the violent crackdown… and the political repression of the opposition by the authorities”.

The leaders said the presidential election was “neither free nor fair” and called for a “transparent” vote “with the participation of international observers”.

“The prime ministers urge the Belarusian authorities to refrain from violence against peaceful demonstrators [and to] release all political prisoners and those that have been detained,” the statement added.

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Media captionSergiy says riot police in Belarus threatened to burn him alive

Ms Tikhanovskaya fled to Lithuania following the election after she publicly denounced the results. She said he had sent her children to Lithuania for safety before the vote.

Lithuania and Latvia have also previously said they are prepared to mediate in Belarus, provided the authorities stopped violence against protesters and formed a national council with members of civil society. They warned that the alternative was sanctions.

What’s the latest with the protests?

On Saturday, opposition supporters gathered for the funeral of a man who died during last week’s demonstrations in the capital, Minsk. Crowds waved flags, lit candles and laid flowers at the scene.

A “March for Freedom” is planned in the centre of the city on Sunday, a week after the disputed election.

It follows Ms Tikhanovskaya’s call for further peaceful rallies across the country on Friday. “Don’t stay on the sidelines,” she said.

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Media caption‘Human life is the most precious thing’: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya speaks out from exile

Meanwhile, Mr Lukashenko said on Saturday that he wanted to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There is a need to contact Putin so that I can talk to him now, because [the protests] are not a threat to just Belarus anymore,” he said, according to state media.

Some 6,700 people were arrested in the wake of the election, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of the security services.

Amnesty International said accounts from released detainees suggested “widespread torture”.

More about the protests in Belarus

Prisoners continued to be released from the notorious Okrestina detention centre in Minsk on Friday, revealing their bruised and swollen bodies.

“They beat people ferociously, with impunity, and they arrest anyone. We were forced to stand in the yard all night. We could hear women being beaten. I don’t understand such cruelty,” one man said as he showed the BBC his bruising.

Belarus Interior Minister Yuri Karayev said he took responsibility for people being injured and wanted to apologise to people caught up in the violence.

from the BBC

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