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A woman holds a historical white-red-white flag of Belarus as she attends an opposition demonstration to protest against presidential election results, in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 18, 2020 - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Lukashenko Orders Increased Border Security to Prevent Entry of 'Fighters and Arms'

The Belarusian Interior Ministry's spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed that some people were detained near the Minsk Tractor Works plant earlier in the day.

"Official information will be soon published ... As of now, I can confirm there have been detentions, we are making an effort to establish the exact number", Olga Chemodanova said.

Earlier media reports suggested that police had dispersed some people crowding the entrance to the enterprise.

Minsk Tractor Works said earlier this week it would go on strike starting Monday. However, according to Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko, all the plants are working as normal.

Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya greets people waving old Belarus flags - Sputnik International
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton Says Sanctions Will Be Reinforced Against Belarus
Belarus became engulfed in protests after the 9 August election results showed the incumbent president winning 80.1 percent of the vote.

During the first days of the unrest, police used force against protesters, which resulted in mass detentions and injuries. The security forces have since softened their response and started releasing those detained en masse, but this has so far not helped to appease the demonstrators.

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21:06 GMT 19.08.2020

The European Union should extend support to Belarus' population and at the same time apply strict sanctions on the government for electoral fraud, Slovak Prime Minster Igor Matovic said on Wednesday.

"Currently at the Council of Europe meeting: we in the EU all agree on Belarus. We do not recognize the results of the [August 9 presidential] election. I have proposed at the summit that we adhere to two parallel approaches — the policy of 'open arms' in relation to the ordinary people of Belarus and simultaneously a policy of strict sanctions in relation to all individuals responsible for the falsification of the election and violence," Matovic said on Facebook, after an emergency Council of Europe summit on Belarus.

18:46 GMT 19.08.2020

"They are trying to accuse us all the time that there is supposedly some kind of program to break or limit relations with Russia. This is absolute nonsense. This is not true. Such a program did not exist, and has never been discussed, and is not worth discussing in the future", ex-culture minister and council member Pavel Latushko told reporters in Minsk.

The now-opposition candidate underscored that it would be unthinkable for Belarus to attempt to distance itself from Russia.

"We do not seek to revise the foreign policy priorities of our country at all. They exist, and we proceed from those that exist today: the warmest, deepest relations with the Russian Federation, because the politician who proposes to build a wall between Belarus and Russia will be the last politician in Belarus. Russia is the first market for the export of Belarusian products", Latushko stressed.

The ex-culture minister went on to say that Belarus remains part of the European civilization and is interested in deepening ties with the European Union, as it is Belarus’ second largest market.

17:49 GMT 19.08.2020
17:49 GMT 19.08.2020

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and his Belarusian counterpart, Roman Golovchenko, agreed, during a phone conversation, on joint work to lift restrictions on movement across the Belarusian-Russian border, the Belarusian government said on Wednesday.

"The parties discussed topical issues of interaction and made necessary decisions. In particular, an agreement was reached on joint work of the relevant departments of the two countries to lift restrictions on movement across the Belarusian-Russian border", the message says.

At the end of the conversation, the parties emphasized their focus on the prompt resolution of all issues within the Union State. As a result, specific instructions were given to the departments of the two countries to implement the agreements reached.

Golovchenko also briefed Mishustin about the current situation in Belarus and measures being taken to prevent attempts to destabilize the situation in the country. He noted that all sectors of the economy and industry were operating normally.

17:30 GMT 19.08.2020

"Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko appointed Roman Golovchenko as the Prime Minister of Belarus with subsequent approval of his appointment by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly. The head of state signed a corresponding decree on August 19. Another decree appointed members of the government", the press service said.

17:20 GMT 19.08.2020

"I believe that the presence of our ambassador in Belarus today is much more important in every sense than his withdrawal for consultations", Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said after a cabinet meeting.

The prime minister argued that the ambassador's continued presence in Minsk is a reflection of Lithuania's stance on the recent events in Belarus.

"It also reflects a certain diplomatic position, namely that we are full of confidence to exercise initiative on this matter. Therefore, the presence of the ambassador and effective work in Minsk are very much necessary", Skvernelis said.

16:59 GMT 19.08.2020

Belarusian Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin instructed the operational command to prepare proposals for defence measures in the western direction, as well as to reinforce troops, the ministry said on Telegram.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko earlier instructed to intensify training of troops to perform tasks as intended, with special attention to be paid to the western operational direction and the troops of the Western Operational Command.

"As part of the implementation of the president's instructions, Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Viktor Khrenin set the task: 'To prepare proposals on the conduct of measures by formations and military units of the Western Operational Command for the preparation and conduct of a defence in the Grodno tactical direction. The operational command should be reinforced with the Tochka missile battalion, the Polonez battalion, a detachment of unmanned aerial systems, air defence systems, electronic reconnaissance and electronic warfare'", the ministry said.

It clarified that the proposals would be presented to the minister on Thursday.

16:07 GMT 19.08.2020

An appeals court in Belarus has rejected a complaint filed by the lawyers of Sergei Tikhanovsky, a jailed opposition-minded blogger and husband of ex-presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, about an extension of arrest, his lawyer, Viktor Matskevich, told Sputnik on Wednesday.

"The court reviewed the complaint about the extension of the detention and waived it," the lawyer said.

According to Matskevich, the legal team has repeatedly asked for Tikhanovsky's release since he has not participated in any investigative action since June, but all of the requests have been consistently rejected and the investigative team has been growing extensively.

The lawyer opined that the situation might be the result of Tikhanovsky's case being linked to the cases of several other people.

Tikhanovsky and many other popular Belarusian YouTube bloggers were arrested over their involvement in the May 29 preelection picket in the city of Hrodna. Tikhanovsky initially planned to run in the presidential election, but because he could not submit an application in person while under arrest, his wife Svetlana ended up registering as a candidate on his behalf.

According to the lawyers, Tikhanovsky was transferred from a detention facility in Minsk to Zhodino in the early hours of Tuesday — his birthday. Later in the day, opposition supporters gathered near the Minsk facility to wish the blogger a happy birthday.

"I visited Tikhanovsky in Zhodino. He was transferred overnight from Monday to Tuesday. He feels more or less well. The conditions are alright. He used to have a small cell [in Minsk], now the cell is larger," Matskevich said.

The facility's authorities are treating the blogger well, "with no bullying and harassment," as stated by the lawyer.

Tikhanovsky is still banned from meeting with his family because, according to Matskevich, investigators fear it might impact the inquiry.

16:06 GMT 19.08.2020

The inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko, recently elected to serve a sixth consecutive term as Belarus' president, must be held within two months from the presidential election date, the Belarusian Election Commission told Sputnik on Wednesday.

The presidential vote took place in Belarus on August 9.

"According to Belarus' current law, the inauguration must take place within two months since the presidential election day, that is before October 9. The exact date has not yet been determined," the commission said.

16:00 GMT 19.08.2020

The Polish government has decided to allocate an additional 50 million zlotys ($13.5 million) to implement the state program, Solidarity with Belarus, amid the political unrest in the neighboring country, Poland’s Chancellery of the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.

"Considering the post-election situation in #Belarus, the Polish authorities have established a programme called 'Solidarity with Belarus.' An additional PLN 50 million will be earmarked for the support and implementation of 5 objectives," the chancellery wrote on Twitter.

The money is said to be designated for the support of the repressed Belarusians, scholarships for students and scientists, the facilitation of entry into Poland, support for the independent media in Belarus, as well as a new program of the International Solidarity Foundation for NGOs.

In 2019, the Polish Official Development Assistance for Belarus amounted to $40.4 million.

14:52 GMT 19.08.2020

Although the leaders of Germany and Belarus have not yet directly spoken about the Belarusian situation, Berlin has other channels for communicating its position to Minsk, German Federal Foreign Office spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said on Wednesday.

"We summoned the Belarusian ambassador for a talk last week and handed him a message, for example. In any case, you can count on that we have the channels to communicate our position to Belarus," Adebahr said at a briefing, replying to a question about why there was still no direct contact between Merkel and Lukashenko.

Answering the same question, Ulrike Demmer, the deputy spokesperson for the German federal government, said that the government "was informing [the public] about only those phone talks which actually took place and not the attempted ones."

Shortly later on Wednesday, Merkel confirmed that she had indeed attempted to arrange a phone call with Lukashenko, but in vain.

On Tuesday, Alexander Lukashenko, the president of protest-engulfed Belarus, claimed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had called him on the phone. The German government told Reuters that the call never took place. Merkel, in the meantime, has had a confirmed discussion of the situation in Belarus with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

14:35 GMT 19.08.2020

The Belarusian opposition's coordination council will form a seven-member Presidium and working groups during the board's first meeting, which began in Minsk on Wednesday, a Sputnik correspondent reported.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran for the Belarusian presidency against incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, and who is now in Lithuania, initiated the creation of the coordination council last week to ensure the transfer of power, stressing that she is ready for dialogue. Tikhanovskaya's ally, Olga Kovalkova, has said that the body would consist of 70 people. Lukashenko has, in turn, said that the Belarusian opposition created the council to "lull" the security forces and seize power.

Wednesday's session is attended by Tikhanovskaya's allies, Maria Kolesnikova, a member of barred candidate Viktor Babariko’s campaign team, and the former culture minister, Pavel Latushka.

"The Presidium of seven people and working groups will be formed today," Olga Kovalkova, Tikhanovskaya's ally, told Sputnik.

The opposition leader herself will not be included in the council, "since she is the elected president, while the coordination council is a body appointed by her for the transfer of power and negotiations with all strata of society," Kovalkova added.

She previously told Sputnik that 55 out of 70 members of the coordination council had already been elected. According to Kovalkova, she and lawyer Maksim Znak are choosing candidates from hundreds of applicants.

14:01 GMT 19.08.2020

The European Union will consider whether to include Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on its list of sanctions, President of the European Council Charles Michel said Wednesday.

"It will be the responsibility at the European levels of the different committees involved in the process to formally take the decision," Michel told reporters after a meeting of the EU leaders, when asked if the Belarusian president would be sanctioned.

"A question about president Lukashenko will be deliberated in the framework of this process," Michel continued.

13:25 GMT 19.08.2020
12:45 GMT 19.08.2020

The damage from the ongoing opposition rallies in Belarus has already reached $500 million and is expected to further increase to billions, Valery Belsky, an aide to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, said on Wednesday.

"The current damage has already amounted to at least $500 million. The total amount is expected to reach billions. The foundations of the foreign lending system created over the years have been undermined, the country's investment attractiveness has suffered, sanctions are being discussed," Belsky said, as quoted by the state-run news agency, Belta.

Lukashenko’s aide said the scale of the protests should not be overestimated since the opposition itself said that 200,000 people have joined the peaceful rallies, which corresponds to just three percent of the Belarusian population.

12:02 GMT 19.08.2020

Moscow is always concerned when Russian reporters face mistreatment while conducting their work but reminds them about the significance of obtaining accreditation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday when asked about violence against journalists covering the ongoing protests in Belarus.

Several Russian news outlets, including RIA Novosti, Sputnik, RT and TV Rain, have reported detentions of their employees who covered opposition rallies in Belarus.

"We are certainly always concerned when our journalists are facing abuse during their work. But we also strongly remind our reporters that carrying out journalistic activities without appropriate accreditation also significantly undermines their legal status," Peskov said.

11:56 GMT 19.08.2020

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told the Defense Ministry to monitor the movement of the NATO troops toward neighbouring Poland and Lithuania.

"The Defence Ministry should pay special attention to the movements of NATO troops to Poland and Lithuania. We must monitor their movements and their plans," Lukashenko said, as quoted by Belta news agency.

The Belarusian president ordered the border security forces to ensure that no "militants or arms" or funding for unrest could enter the country.

11:25 GMT 19.08.2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexnder Lukashenko had a phone call on Wednesday, they are coordinating within various agreements, Natalia Eismont, the spokeswoman for Lukashenko, said.

"Presidents of Russia and Belarus are now holding consultations, heads of state are coordinating their actions, first of all, within the agreements — the Union State, the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization]," Eismont said, as aired on Rossiya 1 broadcast.

"There were several phone calls, including one today," Eismont said.

"We mostly want the West not to support those who destabilize the situation in Belarus. Based on this, our president asked his Russian counterpart to convey to [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel [a request for] Germany and all of the Western Europe to refrain from meddling in Belarus' internal affairs, which is the case now," the spokeswoman said.

According to Eismont, Lukashenko does not believe there is need for him to have a conversation with Merkel. Such a conversation could even have a negative impact, the spokeswoman said.

11:13 GMT 19.08.2020

Belarusian law enforcement authorities have released Oleg Moiseenko, a member of ex-presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's campaign, who was detained on the eve of the election, the opposition said on Wednesday.

"Late last night, Oleg Moiseenko was released ... He was detained on August 8," the opposition said.

10:29 GMT 19.08.2020

The EU may tighten sanctions against Belarus, as it does not recognize the results of the recent presidential election and considers them to not reflect the will of Belarusian citizens, as is evident by the widespread protests in the country, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said on Wednesday on the Europe 1 broadcaster.

"We can expect a tightening of sanctions [on Belarus]. These [presidential election] results are certainly not in accordance with the will of the people. In a way, we do not recognize them," Breton said.

Earlier in August, the Foreign Ministers of EU states agreed upon the need to sanction the Belarusian authorities in relation to the results of the presidential election on August 9 and subsequent anti-governmental rallies across the country, marked by police violence and numerous detentions.

Breton also noted that due to its geographical location between Russia and Europe, as well as the majority of the population being favourable to close ties with Russia, Belarus is not experiencing the same political struggle as Ukraine or Georgia.

10:28 GMT 19.08.2020

Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Marcin Przydacz on Wednesday expressed hope that the European Union would propose concrete dialogue to the Belarusian authorities in a stance of pan-EU solidarity.

Speaking to public radio broadcaster Polskie Radio, Przydacz said that Brussels must offer Minsk concrete steps to exit the crisis.

"I think that one can hope for a common position of the European Union on the situation in Belarus, an appeal to the authorities in Minsk to take concrete actions, such as dialogue with society and refraining from the use of force," Przydacz said.

The diplomat went on to emphasize the need for the EU to take a unified stance on Belarus that is not tainted by the economic considerations of individual EU nations.

"In recent years, we have gotten used to the fact that the economic interests of several partners outweigh the basic principles of European solidarity… at least in the context of Nord Stream 2 [pipeline]. So much has been said about European solidarity, but somehow, in the case of Nord Stream 2, European solidarity was not applied," Przydacz said.

The official went so far as to stake confidence in the bloc’s legitimacy on its capacity to formulate a stance on Belarus that is not centered around relations with Russia.

"We believe that in order to maintain confidence in the European Union, the confidence of all EU members, we must take the side of dialogue and not move to the context of relations with Russia. Russia, in my opinion, itself should be interested in the stabilization situation in Belarus," the diplomat stressed.

10:20 GMT 19.08.2020

The political crisis in Belarus creates risks for the improvement of the country's macroeconomic stability and investment, the Fitch Ratings agency said on Wednesday.

"Further deterioration in the political situation and domestic confidence, or a prolonged disruption of economic activity, could increase depreciation pressures on the Belarusian rouble, adversely affect the highly dollarised financial sector (65% of sector deposits and 52% of loans are in foreign currency), and erode international reserves. This could undermine improvements in macroeconomic stability in recent years stemming from greater consistency between monetary, wage and fiscal policies," Fitch Ratings said in a press release.

The possible sanctions on Belarus, which European Union leaders are set to discuss later in the day, would "increase economic challenges," the agency warned.

"Existing EU sanctions target several government officials and prevent arms sales to Belarus. Although we do not anticipate sanctions similar to those that limit Russia’s access to external financing or target key sectors of the economy, the imposition of additional sanctions could limit external financing options, for example from multilaterals in the near-term," Fitch Ratings said.

10:12 GMT 19.08.2020
10:08 GMT 19.08.2020

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rossiya 1 broadcaster on Wednesday that he was convinced that the people of Belarus could work out the current situation on their own.

The minister said that he hoped that Belarusians would be able to sort things out themselves and would not follow the lead of those who need Belarus solely for the expansion of geopolitical space and to promote "the well-known destructive logic — either you are with Russia, or you are with Europe."

"I am convinced that the Belarusian people can figure out the current situation on the own," the diplomat added.

According to the foreign minister, when the 2014 Ukrainian revolution took place, many EU member states followed the logic of "either-or."

Lavrov went on to say that the Belarusian government was ready for a dialogue with the opposition.

"I do not see any lack of readiness for the dialogue on the part of the authorities. And I very much hope that the same readiness will be shown on the side of those who are unhappy with the results of the elections for one reason or another," the minister noted.

09:30 GMT 19.08.2020

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday thanked the country's workers who decided against joining the strikes and expressed concern that some of them may face pressure.

"Threats and attacks on workers at plants, management, we are concerned about that. Before and after the work starts, they have to go through an aggressive crowd at the entrance. It's like gestapo. I just want to offer a lot of gratitude to the workers and ask them not to hide their eyes looking down," Lukashenko said.

Large protests began in Belarus after the presidential election on August 9. According to the Central Election Commission, Lukashenko was re-elected with 80.1 percent of the vote. The opposition believes that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya won the election.

During the first few days, the law enforcement officers quelled the protests using tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullet. Then they stopped using force to disperse the rallies. According to the official data, more than 6,700 people were detained in the first few days. Hundreds of people, including more than 120 law enforcement officers, were injured in the protests, the Interior Ministry said. Two protesters died.

09:25 GMT 19.08.2020

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Wednesday that attacks on government officials were taking place in the country amid the ongoing protests.

"We even see attack on members of the government. You have seen certain protesters' actions against the health minister," Lukashenko told the Belarusian Security Council.

On Monday, Belarusian Health Minister Vladimir Karanik briefly communicated with protesting doctors. The protesters tried to prevent him from leaving the site, one of the doctors even tried to grab the official by his sleeve.

09:13 GMT 19.08.2020

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the West of sponsoring protests in his country and pledged that the Belarusian government would "focus on that."

"Western countries announce collecting funds and sending money to Belarus in an overt manner. We see this," Lukashenko told the Belarusian Security Council, as quoted by the state-run news agency Belta.

The West keeps sponsoring protests, the president noted, admitting that the Belarusian government cannot track all the arriving funds.

"Too much money comes in cash. But we are aware of the situation and will focus on that," Lukashenko said.

09:05 GMT 19.08.2020

Seventeen foreign journalists were denied entry to Belarus due to absence of necessary accreditation, they concealed the true purpose of the visit, the Belarusian State Border Committee said on Wednesday.

"On August 18, 17 representatives of foreign media outlets were denied entry to the Republic of Belarus at the Minsk National Airport checkpoint, as they had no accreditation for conducting journalistic activities on the territory of our country," the State Border Committee said in a statement.

"The foreigners hid the true purpose of entering Belarus, they claimed they planned to go sightseeing. However, it was revealed that they intended to conduct journalistic activities in violation of the Belarusian legislation, as press cards ... and professional equipment wee found," the committee went on to say.

Journalists working for Deutsche Welle and Danmarks Radio, who were accredited by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, faced no problems while crossing the border, the committee noted.

08:20 GMT 19.08.2020

China opposes any external forces' attempts to create a split and trigger unrest in Belarus, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said on Wednesday.

"As a good friend and a partner, we do not want to see chaos in Belarus, we are against any external forces' attempts to trigger split and unrest in the Belarusian society," Zhao said at a briefing.

The diplomat praised the Chinese-Belarusian strategic partnership, trust and mutually beneficial cooperation.

"We respect the development path that the Belarusian people has chosen in accordance with the situation in the country. We also respect their effort to protect independence, sovereignty, safety and development," Zhao added.

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