The European Union does not recognise Alexander Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus, the bloc’s diplomatic chief said on Tuesday, a day after the embattled leader was welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, told the European Parliament the August 9 election that returned the veteran strongman to power was fraudulent.
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Lukashenko has faced huge protests against his rule since the disputed ballot and widespread condemnation from the international community for a brutal crackdown on demonstrators by his security forces.
“The situation is clear for us. We consider the elections of August 9 fraudulent,” Borrell told the parliament.
“We don’t recognise Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus.”
The EU has already said it does not recognise Lukashenko’s reelection as legitimate and is in the process of preparing sanctions against those responsible for rigging the vote and cracking down on protests.
Borrell said more than 7,500 peaceful protesters have been detained and 500 cases of torture have been documented.
But diplomats say the EU sanctions on Belarus are being blocked by Cyprus, which is demanding measures against Turkey first in a dispute over natural gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Borrell said the EU’s credibility was at stake and urged member states to pass the sanctions – which need a unanimous vote – before their summit in Brussels at the end of next week.
On Monday, Russia agreed to a $1.5bn loan with Minsk, President Putin said at talks with Alexander Lukashenko, adding that the Belarusian people should resolve the crisis without foreign interference.
Putin said he thought a proposal by Lukashenko to carry out constitutional reform was logical and timely.
Protests, some featuring violence, have gripped the country for five weeks since the vote, with anti-Kremlin placards seen at some rallies.
Also on Monday, the UN rights council agreed to host an urgent debate on reports of violence at the hands of authorities during protests.