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European lawmakers condemn 'violent repression' in Belarus, call for sanctions against president

“MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) also staunchly condemn the mass arrests and ongoing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters," the resolution said.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Opposition demonstration to protest against presidential election results in Minsk
Law enforcement officers block opposition supporters at a rally against police brutality, following protests to reject the presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus on Monday. Tut.By / via Reuters

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko should face sanctions for the “violent repression” in the country after August’s disputed election result, European lawmakers said Thursday.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted to reject the official result of Belarus' “so-called presidential elections” in a resolution which said the vote was conducted in a “flagrant violation of all internationally recognized standards.”

“MEPs also staunchly condemn the mass arrests and ongoing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, strike leaders and journalists in the country, with many reports of ill-treatment, rape and torture emerging from Belarusian detention centers and jails,” the resolution said.

It was adopted by 574 votes in favor, 37 against with 82 abstentions.

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Once Lukashenko’s current term expires Nov. 5, the resolution said that the parliament “will no longer recognize him as the president of the country,” adding that all 27 member states should implement sanctions "without delay."

It also noted the “important contribution made by prominent female opposition members including Lukashenko’s main election challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity several months ago after her husband was prevented from running and thrown in jail. She has since fled to Lithuania for security reasons.

Tsikhanouskaya, who protesters claim defeated Lukashenko at the polls, will address the U.N. Human Rights Council by video on Friday.

The lawmakers also praised Maria Kolesnikov, who is facing up to five years imprisonment after she was charged with incitement to undermine national security Wednesday.

Often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” Lukashenko has maintained his grasp on power in the former Soviet nation for the last 26 years.

He has accused the United States and its allies of fomenting massive demonstrations in the country, a claim backed by Russia's intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin on Wednesday. Without providing any evidence, Naryshkin said the U.S. was providing millions of dollars to opposition groups in the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new $1.5 billion loan to Belarus when he hosted Lukashenko on Monday.

The financial lifeline was condemned by the Belarusian opposition, which warned Moscow that it would tarnish future ties between the countries.

Earlier this week, Russian paratroopers also deployed to Belarus for drills that will run through Sept. 25 near Brest, on the border with Poland.