Belarus tells US will repel 'external threats' with Russia's help
Iran Press TV
Sunday, 25 October 2020 9:11 AM
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has warned the United States that his government is prepared, with the help of its ally Russia, to repel any external threat against the county's security.
Lukashenko made the remarks in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, ahead of a country-wide strike that could begin on Monday following calls from the US-backed opposition.
Pompeo traveled to Belarus in February in a bid to "normalize" ties with Minsk, saying at the time that Washington was aware of Belarus' long history with Russia. "It's not about picking us between the two. We want to be here," he said of the aim of his visit.
Lukashenko, however, said, "By mutual opinion, after Pompeo's February visit to Minsk, the situation has changed dramatically, new challenges have arisen and are emerging."
"Russia does not interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus. At the same time, the countries are ready to jointly respond to emerging external threats," he added.
A US State Department spokesperson confirmed Pompeo's call on Saturday, saying he "reaffirmed US support for the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus."
"The Secretary called for the full release and immediate departure from Belarus of wrongfully detained US citizen Vitali Shkliarov," said the spokesman.
Shkliarov was detained in July after being charged with organizing actions violating public order in Belarus.
He had been actively commenting on the situation in Belarus ahead of the presidential election in the country.
Writing in the Russian version of Forbes in July, days before his arrest, he said Lukashenko's election campaign was based on "populism and crude force."
Belarus plunged into unrest following Lukashenko's landslide victory in the August 9 election, securing his sixth term in office.
The Belarusian opposition and Western countries quickly alleged voter fraud and Lukashenko's political opponents and opposition organized riots and mass protests, demanding that the election be repeated.
The administration of President Donald Trump, along with the European Union and Canada, imposed sanctions on several Belarus officials over fraud allegations.
The Belarusian government has rejected the allegations of vote rigging and ruled out a repeat election. Lukashenko has also warned of a Western plot to destabilize Belarus and turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help with maintaining security.
The Russian president has said Lukashenko asked him to have a group of law enforcement officers on standby to be dispatched to Belarus if necessary. Putin said that he expected the crisis to be resolved peacefully but that the group had been formed.
He also urged Belarus' government and opposition to resolve their differences peacefully.
The opposition claims that its candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya won the presidential election.
Tikhanovskaya left Belarus for Lithuania after the election, and from there she initiated the formation of a council for power transition.
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