MINSK – Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, speaking at a rally of his supporters in Minsk on Sunday, rejected calls to hold a new presidential election and accused NATO of massing on his country’s western border.
Belarus has been rocked by a week of street protests after protesters accused Lukashenko of rigging a presidential election last Sunday, something he denies.
Lukashenko earlier spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin who told the Belarusian leader that Moscow stood ready to provide help in accordance with a collective military pact if necessary, the Kremlin said in a statement.
As Lukashenko’s supporters waited for his expected appearance at the Sunday rally, many chanted Lukashenko’s nickname of “Batka,” or father, and “Maidan won’t take place,” referring to the months of protest in Ukraine in 2013-14 that drove then-President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country.
“Now everybody is against Lukashenko and the president needs our support. Everybody suddenly has forgotten the good things he has done — there’s order in the country, we don’t have war of hunger,” said supporter Tamara Yurshevich, a 35-year-old lawyer.
Belarus’ declining economy and Lukashenko’s dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic as “psychosis” are among the factors that galvanized the largest and most sustained protests the country has seen.
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