Belarus: Lukashenko calls for fresh elections

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has denied holding fresh elections in an interview with Russian media. Meanwhile, the country's opposition leader has called for sanctions against the government.

Belarus: Lukashenko calls for fresh elections

President Alexander Lukashenko acknowledged on Tuesday that he had spent too much time in office, but said he was still the only person who could protect Belarus.

The 66-year-old leader, who has been in power since 1994, said the controversial presidential vote could be re-discussed only after constitutional reforms, without giving further details.

According to the Interfax news agency, Lukashenko was quoted’ as saying, "We are ready to amend the constitution so that I do not rule out early presidential elections."

However, Lukashenko said he would refuse to talk to opposition politicians after EU governments called for "talks".

Interfax said the Belarusian leader told a Moscow radio station that he would not speak to the opposition's liaison council "because I do not know who they are."

Tsikhanouskaya called for sanctions

Lukashenko's rival in the disputed August 9 election, exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, on Tuesday called for sanctions against the president and his aides.

In a speech via video link to the European Council, a European human rights organization based in Strasbourg, France, a non-EU organization, Tsikhanouskaya  said, "Now my country, my nation, my people need help. ۔ "

"We need international pressure on this government, one of which is fiercely clinging to power," he said. "We need sanctions against those who issue and carry out criminal orders in violation of international norms and human rights."

Tsikhanouskaya, 37, fled Belarus to Lithuania after running in last month's election for fear of his safety.

He claimed victory in the referendum, with the opposition accusing him of widespread fraud.

But in Belarus, election officials say Lukashenko won more than 80 percent of the vote.

Weeks of mass protests

Protesters have taken to the streets across the country over the past month to protest against Lukashenko. More than 7,000 people have been arrested’ amid widespread reports of police brutality and violence.

Last month, the European Union said the election was "neither free nor fair." The foreign ministers of 27 countries agreed to introduce sanctions against those responsible for the violence and alleged electoral fraud.

The bloc's foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, has called for the immediate release of protesters and political prisoners.


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