Belarusian opposition leader asks EU not to recognise election result

MINSK (Reuters) – Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya appealed to European Union leaders on Wednesday not to recognise what she said were fraudulent presidential elections, urging the bloc to respect the choice of the Belarusian people.

Tsikhanouskaya was speaking from exile in neighbouring Lithuania before an emergency EU summit, due to be held by video conference, to discuss the crisis unfolding in Belarus.

Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s veteran leader, is struggling to contain a wave of mass protests and strikes that pose the biggest challenge to his 26-year hold on power. He denies rigging the Aug. 9 election to secure a sixth term.

“I call on you not to recognise these fraudulent elections,” Tikhanouskaya said, speaking in English in a video address. “Mr. Lukashenko has lost all legitimacy in the eyes of our nation and the world.”

Tsikhanouskaya says she was the rightful winner of the election and wants new elections to be held under some kind of international supervision.

The EU has signalled it will impose sanctions on Belarusian officials it deems responsible for election fraud and a crackdown on protests in which at least two protesters have been killed and thousands detained.

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Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde has offered to visit Minsk in her role as incoming chair of the OSCE, a security body that includes both Western countries and former Soviet states, and often mediates in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has offered Lukashenko military help if needed, spoke by phone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday.

He warned Merkel and Macron against foreign meddling in the affairs of Belarus, a close Russian ally.

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