Belarus president closes some borders, puts army on alert,

An archive

An archive

Mass protests since the August election have posed the biggest threat yet to Lukashenko and his attempts to extend his 26-year rule, although European Union governments have yet to respond with sanctions.

In Wednesday's speech, Lukashenko charged that the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine have helped fuel protests. "Therefore, today in front of this hall of the most handsome, advanced, patriotic people I want to appeal to the peoples of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine - stop your insane politicians, don't let war break out!"

He did not mention neighbouring Latvia, which like Poland and Lithuania is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member.

His main challenger in the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dismissed his comments as an attempt to divert public attention from rigging the vote and the violent crackdown on protests.

Almost 7,000 people were detained and hundreds were brutally beaten by police during the first several days of post-election protests.

Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher, emerged from obscurity several months ago after her husband was prevented from running and thrown in jail.

Protestors have taken to the streets in Minsk for weeks following the allegedly rigged August 9 re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed to have won with 80 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, received only 10 percent of the vote.

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Polish daily Rzeczpospolita said on Thursday the proposed aid would be conditional on Lukashenko allowing a free presidential election.

Protesters are being tortured in police stations across Belarus, where authorities have failed to open investigations, human rights experts said, holding a press conference in Geneva where alleged victims spoke by video link from Minsk. The street in the capital of Minsk where Taraikovsky died turned into a pilgrimage site, with thousands of people, including European ambassadors, laying flowers there. He alleged that the USA has earmarked tens of millions of dollars to finance Belarus' opposition groups, but provided no evidence.

Belarusian authorities have charged protest leader Maria Kolesnikova with incitement to undermine national security, which carries a maximum jail term of five years.

Belarus' foreign ministry responded strongly, saying: "We are disappointed that the European Parliament, positioning itself as a serious, objective and democratic structure, could not find the political will to look beyond its nose, overcome one-sidedness and not become a hostage to conventional cliches".

Lukashenko has relied even more heavily on Russian Federation for support following the worldwide community's condemnation. Moscow announced this week it would offer a new $1.5 billion loan to his government.

Morawiecki, whose call for a "Marshall Plan" alluded to Europe's reconstruction after World War Two, said the financial assistance forms part of the support package for Belarus which he will propose at the next European Union summit on September 24-25. "It should be at least 1 billion euros", Morawiecki said in Vilnius after meeting Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis.

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