Prague, Aug 12 (efe-epa).- The United States’ secretary of state expressed support here Wednesday for Belarusian citizens’ demands for freedom and urged the government in Minsk not to use force against peaceful demonstrators.
“We want the people of Belarus to have the freedoms that they’re demanding, that they think are in their best interests,” Mike Pompeo said in a joint press conference with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
“We urge that the non-violent protesters be protected and not harmed,” said the US’s chief diplomat, whose stay in the Czech Republic marked his first stop on a visit to four Central and Eastern European countries.
Babis also expressed support for the protesters and called for action by the European Union.
“I expect that the European Union will issue not only declarations, but will also take some actions, take some measures, because the Belarusians have the same right to be free as we have,” he said.
Thousands of people have been arrested in Belarus during nighttime protests against the results of last Sunday’s presidential election, in which long-time head of state Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory over opposition candidate Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya.
The opposition says the election was marred by fraud, while Tikhanovskaya was forced to flee to Lithuania.
“I could not imagine that something like that could happen in Europe, so close to us. It’s scandalous,” Babis said.
Separately Wednesday, Pompeo said in a speech before the Czech Senate in Prague that China’s economic strength makes it a more formidable rival than the former Soviet Union was during the Cold War.
“What’s happening now isn’t Cold War 2.0. The challenge of resisting the (Chinese Communist Party) threat is in some ways much more difficult. That’s because the CCP is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies in ways the Soviet Union never was,” the secretary of state said.
Pompeo, who will later travel to Slovenia, Austria and Poland, on Wednesday also hailed the Czech Republic’s leadership in the area of 5G security.
“Your personal leadership has helped set the course for more than 30 nations and territories to become 5G clean countries. The tide is turning – there’s no doubt about that – against untrusted networks and toward the values of free nations,” he said during the press conference in a swipe at Chinese telecommunications companies.