Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has accused the West of attempting “to destroy our country” by ignoring the results of last month’s election and instead trying to organize a revolution to take power away from the authoritarian leader after nearly three decades of rule.
In a speech to senior officials and state-run media outlets on September 16, Lukashenka said that the ongoing protests questioning his victory in the August 9 vote were organized by the United States and “its satellites — Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and unfortunately, Ukraine,” who tried to organize a so-called “color revolution” with the goal of “violating our sovereignty and even our territorial integrity.”
“We did not allow their plans to come true and we will not allow that,” Lukashenka said.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusians take to the streets to demand the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and call for new elections after official results from the August 9 presidential poll gave Lukashenka a landslide victory.
Thousands of people have been detained and beaten by police while nearly all the opposition’s key leaders have been forced to leave the country or been arrested over their demonstrations against the election result, which gave Lukashenka just over 80 percent of the vote.
Opposition leaders have accused the authoritarian leader of vote-rigging, which he denies.
His main challenger in the election, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dismissed his comments as an attempt to divert public attention from rigging the vote and the violent crackdown on protests.
“There is just one reason behind the protests in Belarus and it’s known to everyone: Lukashenka has lost the vote, but he doesn’t want to step down,” Tsikhanouskaya was quoted by the Associated Press as saying in a written comment to the news agency.
“People have denied Lukashenka their trust and support and demand that he leave,” she added.
Lukashenka has led a crackdown on protests, strikes, and the media since the election, drawing condemnation from human rights groups, media freedom watchdogs, and the international community.
He has refused to negotiate with opposition figures over a new vote, saying on September 16 that “we held the presidential election and got the result, period” and that the next presidential election will be held only after a new constitution is adopted.
“It is time now to give a new momentum to the social and political life. It is important to form a single opinion on what our country, its state system, will be,” he said, adding that the current electoral laws have flaws that are being used by what he called “sham candidates and their representatives” — a reference to Tsikhanouskaya and her associates, who say she in fact won the election.
Lukashenka said that Lithuania’s “anti-Belarus” stance most likely stemmed from Minsk-Vilnius disagreements regarding the ongoing construction by Russia of a new Astravets nuclear power plant in western Belarus.
He announced on September 16 that the plant will officially start functioning by November 7.
Lukashenka’s statements came two days after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi at which Moscow agreed to allocate a $1.5 billion state loan to Lukashenka to help keep Belarus’s economy from faltering.
With reporting by BelTA and AP