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‘Disregard for human dignity’: Opposition leader calls for UN mission to Belarus

“We ask the United Nations to condemn the use of excessive force by the Belarusian security services against protesters.”

The opposition leader spoke from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, where she fled after Lukashenko launched his crackdown.

Representatives of Russia and China, both of which hold veto powers at the United Nations, told the UN session they opposed outside intervention in the internal affairs of Belarus.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin discussed the refinancing of a loan in Minsk on Thursday.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin discussed the refinancing of a loan in Minsk on Thursday.Credit:AP

“Attempts to internationalise the situation in Belarus can only aggravate things,” said Dmitry Polyanskiy, the deputy UN envoy of Russia, which sees Belarus as a vital strategic buffer between itself and NATO. Russia has offered military help to Lukashenko, should he want it, “to ensure the security of Belarus in the event of external military threats”.

Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, has faced a wave of opposition protests since his August 9 election victory. He has denied accusations by the opposition and Western countries that the vote was rigged and has resisted demands to step down.

A woman argues with a policeman during a protest in Minsk, Belarus, on Tuesday.

A woman argues with a policeman during a protest in Minsk, Belarus, on Tuesday.Credit:AP

Human rights experts from the UN said this week they had received reports of hundreds of cases of torture, beatings and mistreatment of Belarusian protesters by police.

The government has denied abusing detainees and has said its security forces have acted appropriately against demonstrators.

“We urge the United Nations to send the needed international authority mission to Belarus to document the situation on the ground,” said Tsikhanovskaya, adding that the UN Special Rapporteur for Belarus must be allowed free access to and movement in the country.

Tsikhanovskaya, a political novice, emerged as the consensus opposition candidate in last month’s election after better-known figures, including her jailed activist husband, were barred from standing.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia imposed travel bans on Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials last month, signalling impatience with the West’s cautious approach by announcing sanctions without waiting for the rest of the European Union.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States and European partners were together reviewing imposing targeted sanctions on anyone involved in human rights abuses in Belarus.

A senior US State Department officials told Reuters this week Washington was considering imposing sanctions on seven Belarusians it believes were involved in falsifying the election results and in violence against peaceful protesters.

The EU is still negotiating the exact list of people to be hit with travel bans and asset freezes when its foreign ministers meet on September 21, diplomatic sources said.

Lukashenko has accused foreign powers of being behind the protests, but has provided no evidence. The opposition has denied there is foreign involvement in the protests and NATO has also denied his allegations that it is massing forces near the Belarusian border.

Reuters

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