Belarus’ president, beleaguered by six weeks of mass protests demanding his resignation, on Thursday announced he was putting troops on high alert and closing the country’s borders with Poland and Lithuania.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s decision underlines his repeated claim that the wave of protests is driven by the West.
He faces increasing criticism from the United States and the European Union.Protests began after the Aug. 9 presidential election that official results say gave the authoritarian leader a sixth term in office; opponents say the results were manipulated.“We are forced to withdraw troops from the streets, put the army on high alert and close the state border on the west, primarily with Lithuania and Poland,” Lukashenko said at a women’s forum.
Lukashenko also said Belarus’ border with Ukraine would be strengthened.
“I don’t want my country to be at war. Moreover, I don’t want Belarus and Poland, Lithuania to turn into a theater of military operations where our issues will not be resolved,” he said.
“Therefore, today in front of this hall of the most beautiful, advanced, patriotic people I want to appeal to the peoples of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine — stop your crazy politicians, don’t let war break out!”He did not mention neighboring Latvia, which like Poland and Lithuania is a NATO member.
Earlier Thursday, the main opposition candidate in the disputed presidential election said that activists are compiling a list of law enforcement officers who were allegedly involved in violence against protesters denouncing the results of the vote.
Nearly 7,000 people were detained and hundreds were brutally beaten by police during the first several days of post-election protests.
Lukashenko’s main challenger in the election, former English teacher and political novice Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said “we have been given the names of those who were beating and torturing people.
We are preparing a list of officials and law enforcement officers who have taken part in lawless repressions”.
Human rights groups are working with opposition activists to identify the officers and officials, Tsikhanouskaya said, adding that the list will be shared with the United States, the European Union and Russia.