EU's Borrell urges Russia not to intervene in Belarus

By: AFP      Published: 06:47 PM, 28 Aug, 2020
EU's Borrell urges Russia not to intervene in Belarus

The EU's diplomatic chief on Friday urged Russia not to intervene in Belarus, after President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for the country's embattled leader.

The EU has rejected the official results of an August 9 poll in Belarus, which saw President Alexander Lukashenko re-elected with 80 percent of votes, and is preparing sanctions against his regime for ballot fraud and a violent crackdown on opposition protesters.

Putin on Thursday pledged to send in his military to stabilise Belarus after weeks of huge demonstrations calling for Lukashenko, often dubbed "Europe's last dictator", to quit and hold new elections.

"I have heard many times from Russia the mantra that this is a domestic internal affair for Belarus and they do not want external interference. I suppose it's also valid for themselves," EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell said.

"It is solely for the Belarusian people to determine their own future. If Russia believes in the independence and sovereignty of a nation state it will respect the wishes and democratic choices of the Belarusian people."

Putin on Thursday also called on the Minsk authorities and the opposition to "find a way out" of the crisis peacefully, but the threat of military intervention by the Kremlin has raised the spectre of the crisis on the EU's doorstep taking a darker turn.

EU foreign ministers meeting Borrell for informal talks in Berlin gave their backing to a list of some 20 individuals to be hit with asset freezes and travel bans for their role in rigging the Belarus election or cracking down on demonstrators.

Borrell said the list would "individuals at high political level" but looks unlikely to include Lukashenko himself, despite calls from some countries for him to be targeted.

The EU is supporting work by the OSCE to broker a negotiated end to the crisis and hitting Lukashenko in person is seen as counterproductive to these efforts.