EU says elections ‘neither free nor fair,’ Lukashenko orders end to unrest
(Update 1: Re-leads with EU response, new headline, adds quotes, detail throughout)
Brussels/Moscow, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- The European Union on Wednesday said it did not recognize the results of the Belarusian presidential election and added that it would draw up targeted sanctions against those responsible for alleged electoral fraud and violence against protesters.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is facing mass opposition protests in the country amid accusations of election fraud in the presidential ballot in which, according to the electoral commission, he received over 80 percent of the vote.
Lukashenko’s rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has gone into exile in Lithuania, had earlier urged the EU to shun the Belarusian election results.
EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel also expressed their solidarity with the protesters in Belarus and said the bloc was ready to “accompany” peaceful democratic change in the Eastern European nation, a close ally of Russia.
Michel, the head of the European Council and the organizer of Wednesday’s discussions, told the press conference: “On August 9th, Belarus held elections. These elections were neither free nor fair and did not meet international standards.”
“We don’t recognize the results presented by the Belarus authorities.”
He said the violence doled out by state forces against protesters in the wake of the contentious poll was “shocking and unacceptable.”
Von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said: “The people of Belarus want change and they want it now.
“We are impressed by the courage of the people of Belarus.”