France’s Macron says Belarus chief Lukashenko ‘has to go’ | Europe

The EU refuses to recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president of the former Soviet republic as Minsk criticizes foreign interventions.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko would have to resign in comments on a French weekly newspaper published on Sunday.

“It is clear that he has to go,” he told Le Journal du Dimanche after the European Union refused to recognize Lukashenko as the country’s legitimate president.

“It is a power crisis, an authoritarian power that cannot accept the logic of democracy and that it clings to with violence. It is clear that Lukashenko has to go, ”said Macron.

The news comes when Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei accused Western countries of trying to “sow chaos and anarchy” in the former Soviet republic.

“We are seeing attempts to destabilize the situation in the country,” he told the United Nations General Assembly in a video statement.

“Interferences in our internal affairs, sanctions and other restrictions on Belarus will have the opposite effect and will be harmful to absolutely everyone.”

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Belarus since the August 9 elections. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said she won despite Lukashenko insisting on a landslide victory.

Brutal crackdown

The embattled leader has cracked down on the demonstrators, arresting an estimated 12,000 people – Western condemnation but Moscow support.

Lukashenko recently sparked new demonstrations and new Western criticism after holding a secret inauguration for himself.

Macron said on Sunday that he was “impressed with the courage of the demonstrators” in Belarus.

According to an NGO, more than 90 people – most of them women – were arrested at opposition rallies on Saturday [Stringer/AFP] (AFP) “They know the risks they are taking by demonstrating every weekend and yet they are driving the movement to bring democracy to life in this country that has been held from being so long,” he said.

“Women in particular who march every Saturday have our respect,” he added.

More than 90 people – most of them women – were arrested at opposition rallies on Saturday, an NGO said.

The EU said Thursday that Lukashenko’s inauguration had no “democratic legitimacy” and refused to recognize him as president.

Brussels is reviewing its relations with the country, said the bloc’s diplomatic head.

EU ministers decided in principle last month to impose sanctions on the government, but Cyprus has blocked the approval until the bloc has agreed on similar measures against Turkey regarding gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

On Friday, the Baltic EU states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia expanded their own sanctions against Belarus.

The topic will be discussed at an EU summit in Brussels from October 1st to 2nd.

The United States, Canada and the UK are also expected to soon impose sanctions on Belarusian individuals in what these governments view as rigged elections and violence against peaceful protesters, sources told Reuters.

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