The Union’s Foreign Policy chief, Josep Borrell has denounced Belarus’ presidential elections that gave long-time ruler Aleksander Lukashenko a sixth term in power, saying that elections were “neither free nor fair.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, Borrell also said that the EU could take “measures against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results,” as the people of Belarus “deserve better.”
“During the electoral campaign, the people of Belarus have demonstrated the desire for democratic change,” his statement reads.
Borrell’s comments came amid growing criticism by NGOs, activists and politicians across Europe, who call the elections a fraud and urge Belarus to ensure its citizens’ fundamental human rights.
Thousands took to the streets across Belarus on Sunday evening, after a state-TV exit poll predicted a landslide victory for incumbent president Lukashenko, who has been running the country since 1994.
The figures released by the country’s Central Electoral Committee (CEC) have led to violent clashes in Minsk, with videos circulating on the web showing police forces cracking down on demonstrators. Police reportedly used stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, while at least one demonstrator is reported to have been killed.
“State authorities deployed disproportionate and unacceptable violence causing at least one death and many injuries. Thousands of people were detained and the crackdown on freedoms of assembly, media and expression intensified,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief said.
He also called on Belarusian authorities to release “immediately and unconditionally” all detained, and to to initiate a “genuine and inclusive dialogue” with broader society to avoid further violence.
On Wednesday morning, Borrell announced in a Twitter post that he will convene an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council, to discuss the situation in Belarus and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the recent developments in Lebanon.
I will call an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting this Friday afternoon.
We will discuss urgent issues and address the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Belarus Presidential elections, as well as developments in Lebanon.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) August 12, 2020
The announcement followed a request by Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, who on Monday called on the chiefs of EU institutions to convene an extraordinary summit on Belarus, after violent clashes between protesters and police forces over the disputed presidential election shook the capital.