"EU must take action". Poland calls for a special summit devoted to Belarus

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Night clashes after presidential election in BelarusFRANAK_VIACORKA
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FRANAK_VIACORKANight clashes after presidential election in Belarus

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called on the leaders of the European Commission and the European Council to hold a special European Union summit on Belarus, the cabinet said on Monday. Polish Press Agency (PAP) quoted an EU source claiming that the European Council chief Charles Michel had reassured Morawiecki that the question of Belarus would be discussed at an EU summit in September. Furthermore, Poland's foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz said he could not rule out imposing sanctions on Belarus.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide re-election victory, the central election commission said on Monday, after bloody clashes between riot police and thousands of protesters who said the poll was rigged.

Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya said she refused to recognise the official results.

"The authorities are not listening to us. The authorities need to think about peaceful ways to hand over power," said Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who entered the race after her blogger husband was jailed.

"Of course we do not recognise the results," Tikhanouskaya added.

Possible sanctions

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called on the leaders of the European Commission and the European Council to hold a special European Union summit on Belarus.

A source within the EU was quoted by Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Monday, saying that PM Morawiecki discussed the latest events that were taking place in Belarus with the head of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The same source also told PAP that the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, had replied to Morawiecki's call in a letter, in which he said that the question of Belarus would be discussed at an EU summit in September.

Poland's ministry of foreign affairs condemned the violence and appealed to the Belarusian authorities "to stop escalating the situation and to start respecting fundamental human rights".

"In the face of the ongoing events in Belarus, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its deep concern about the brutal pacification of post-election demonstrations. The harsh reaction, the use of force against peaceful protesters, and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable," it said in a statement.

Later on Monday, Poland's foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz told a news conference that "the EU must take action to prevent the possible use of force in Belarus". He added that he hoped imposing sanctions on Belarus would not be necessary, but did not rule out the option.

Indications of fraud

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has also stressed that the European Union must discuss sanctions against Belarus.

The EU had lifted sanctions because the country had taken steps in the right direction, including releasing political prisoners, Maas said in Berlin.

"We must now discuss in the EU whether this still applies in the light of the past week and the past days," he added, echoing comments from Poland.

Maas' ministry earlier said there were numerous indications of fraud in the election.

"Together with France and Poland we demanded free and transparent elections and yesterday and in the run-up there was absolutely no sight of this. Instead, we saw violence, intimidation and arrests and this will certainly have to be a topic when I'm in Moscow tomorrow. Already from here, we demand that those who took peacefully to the streets using their democratic rights be released immediately," German foreign minister said.

"Massively rigged poll"

The European Union's foreign policy chief and its commissioner for enlargement said the election had been marred by "disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters".

"We condemn the violence and call for the immediate release of all (those) detained during last night," Josep Borrell and Oliver Varhelyi said in a joint statement.

Foreign observers have not judged an election to be free and fair in Belarus since 1995, and the run-up to the vote saw authorities jail Lukashenko's rivals and open criminal investigations into others who voiced opposition.

The streets in the capital and other cities were quiet after violence on Sunday night, when riot police used force to disperse thousands of protesters who had gathered to denounce what they said was an electoral farce.

Tikhanouskaya told reporters she considered herself the election winner. She said the poll had been massively rigged.

Her campaign rallies have drawn some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The opposition now wants a vote recount at polling stations where there were problems, her aides said, adding that protests which turned bloody on Sunday would continue.

They said they were ready to hold talks with authorities.

"No revolution"

There was no immediate response to that offer from Lukashenko, a former Soviet collective farm manager who has ruled Belarus since 1994. Once dubbed Europe's last dictator by Washington, he faces his biggest challenge in years to keep his grip on power amid discontent over his handling of the economy, COVID-19, and human rights abuses.

But Lukashenko signalled he would not step down.

"The response will be appropriate. We won't allow the country to be torn apart," the 65-year-old leader was quoted by the Belta news agency as saying.

Lukashenko repeated allegations that shadowy forces abroad were trying to manipulate protesters he called "sheep" in order to topple him, something he said he'd never allow.

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko at a meeting with Sergei Lebedev, head of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) observation missionpresident.gov.by

"They are trying to orchestrate mayhem," said Lukashenko. "But I have already warned: there will be no revolution."

Russia's RIA news agency cited the Belarusian Interior Ministry as saying that police had detained around 3,000 people during post-election protests.

Rights groups say more than 1,300 people were also detained in the pre-election crackdown, including independent election observers and members of Tikhanouskaya's campaign team.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Lukashenko on his win, however, as did Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he hoped the Belarusian leader would deepen ties with Moscow, something Lukashenko has been resisting in recent times.

Autor:gf

Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters, PAP