Belarus crisis: Lukashenko orders army to defend 'territorial integrity'

WION Web Team
Minsk, Belarus Published: Aug 22, 2020, 04:43 PM(IST)

Protests in Belarus over strongman Lukashenko's election Photograph:( Agencies )

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Lukashenko denounced recent mass protests, which he said were receiving support from Western countries, and ordered the army to defend western Belarus, which he described as 'a pearl'.

Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday ordered his defence minister to take "stringent measures" to defend the country's territorial integrity after mass protests erupted against his claim to election victory. 

The 65-year-old authoritarian leader, who said he won a sixth presidential term with 80 percent of the vote in the August 9 ballot, made the comments during an inspection of military units in Grodno, near Belarus's border with Poland, according to the president's press service.

Also see: Thousands stage flower protest in Belarus as EU weighs sanctions

Lukashenko denounced recent mass protests, which he said were receiving support from Western countries, and ordered the army to defend western Belarus, which he described as "a pearl".

"It involves taking the most stringent measures to protect the territorial integrity of our country," Lukashenko said.

His visit comes ahead of large-scale military exercises planned in the Grodno region between August 28 and 31.

Also see: Water cannons, tear gas, stun grenades: Protesters clash with Belarus police after election results

Opponents of Europe's longest serving leader have organised strikes and the largest demonstrations in the ex-Soviet country's recent history to protest his re-election and demand that he stand down. 

The authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the opposition's Coordination Council, whose members are seeking new elections and a peaceful transition of power.

Lukashenko has rejected the idea of holding another ballot, dismissed calls to resign and accused the opposition of attempting to seize power. On Friday he vowed to "solve the problem" of the protest movement.

Exiled opposition leader and political newcomer, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said this week that Belarusians would "never accept the current leadership again" after Lukashenko's crackdown on mass protests following the disputed election.

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