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19th Sep 2020

EU leaders urge Putin to push for Belarus dialogue

  • Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya recorded her video message from exile in Lithuania (Photo: Serge Serebro)

European Council president Charles Michel, French president Emmanuel Macron, and German chancellor Angela Merkel each spoke by phone with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (18 August) about the situation in Belarus.

The calls were held ahead of a special, online EU summit on the crisis on Wednesday.

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The appeals came after more than a week of protests against the claimed landslide victory of long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko

Michel, who will chair Wednesday's European Council, gave no details of his 30-minute call with Putin, but said in a tweet that "only peaceful and truly inclusive dialogue can resolve the crisis".

An EU official said Michel and Putin "discussed the best ways to encourage/assist intra-Belarusian dialogue for a peaceful end to the crisis", including the option of a role for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Merkel told Putin that authorities in Belarus should "enter into a national dialogue with the opposition and society to overcome the crisis".

Macron asked the Russian leader to help create "calm and dialogue."

In Kremlin readouts of the two calls, Putin "stressed that any attempts to interfere in the country's [Belarus'] domestic affairs from the outside leading to a further escalation of the crisis would be unacceptable."

It was not clear if Putin was referring to EU plans to impose sanctions on those Belarusian officials responsible for alleged electoral fraud and for the violent crackdown on protesters that followed.

Message from opposition to EU

Also on Tuesday, exiled opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, published a video message to European leaders.

In the clip, she said the elections were "neither fair nor transparent" and that "the results were falsified".

She called on European leaders "not to recognise these fraudulent elections" as "Mr Lukashenko has lost legitimacy".

She also announced the initiation of a "National Coordination Council of Belarus" in order to lead "the process of peaceful transition of power via dialogue", adding that it would immediately organise new presidential elections.

The national council would consist of 70 persons, such as representatives of political parties and prominent cultural figures, including the Nobel prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich.

Tikhanovskaya ended her message by asking the European leaders "for support for the awakening of Belarus"

Lukashenko's response

But for his part, Lukashenko reacted publicly on Tuesday by hinting a new wave of repression.

He said that the proposed coordination council was "an attempt to seize power".

"I want to warn those who have joined this council that we will take adequate measures in response," Lukashenko told the members of his security clique.

"Fully within the constitution and the law, but we have enough of such measures to cool down a few hot heads," he added,

Lukashenko also said Minsk had deployed armed units on its western borders in response to statements by foreign governments about the situation inside the country, according to the Reuters news agency.

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