Hundreds of women calling for the authoritarian president to step down protested in Belarus' capital on Saturday, continuing the large demonstrations that have rocked the country since early August. The EU is pondering sanctions for top Belarusian officials, but it failed to agree on imposing them this week and plans to continue discussions in the coming week.
Police employed tear gas and flashbang devices to disperse a rally against Belarus's long-time President Alexander Lukashenko in the country's second largest city, Gomel. "It is clear that Lukashenko has to go", Macron said.
Belarus' foreign minister warned Western nations Saturday against imposing sanctions over the country's disputed presidential election and crackdown on protesters, saying their expressions of concern are "nothing but attempts to bring chaos and anarchy to our country".
"We are seeing attempts to destabilize the situation in the country", he told the United Nations General Assembly in a video statement. "Interference in our internal affairs, sanctions and other restrictions on Belarus will have the opposite effect and are harmful for absolutely everyone", the foreign minister said, adding that "the future [of Belarus] is not to be decided at the barricades but through civilized dialogue including through the process of constitutional reform which has already begun".
Belarus, a previous Soviet republic carefully allied with Russian Federation, has actually been rocked by street demonstrations considering that authorities stated Lukashenko won anAug 9 election by a landslide. This week he triggered new demonstrations and fresh Western criticism when he held a secret inauguration for himself.
Makei's remarks to the worldwide community, which included saying "the people made their choice" in the election, could fuel further protests Sunday.
"They are aware of the risks they are taking by demonstrating every week, on weekends, and yet they continue to do so in an effort to breathe life into this long-suppressed democracy in this country."- said Macron. More than 90 people-most of them women-were arrested on Saturday at opposition rallies, according to one NGO.
The EU on Thursday said Lukashenko's inauguration lacked "democratic legitimacy" and refused to recognise him as president.
European Union ministers decided in principle last month to impose sanctions against the government, but Cyprus has been blocking approval until the bloc agrees on similar measures against Turkey over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.