Belarus’ President, beleaguered by six weeks of large protests calling for his resignation, on Thursday announced he was putting troops on high alert and closing some of the country’s borders.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s decision to close the borders with Poland and Lithuania underlines his repeated claim that the massive wave of protests is driven by the West and comes amid increasing criticism from the United States and the European Union.
Protests began after the August 9 presidential election that official results say gave the authoritarian leader a sixth term in office; opponents say the results were manipulated.
“We are forced to withdraw troops from the streets, put the army on high alert, and close the state border on the West, primarily with Lithuania and Poland,” Lukashenko said at a women’s forum.
Lukashenko also said Belarus’ border with Ukraine would be strengthened.
“I don’t want my country to be at war. Moreover, I don’t want Belarus and Poland, Lithuania to turn into a theatre of military operations where our issues will not be resolved,” he said.
“Therefore, today in front of this hall of the most beautiful, advanced, patriotic people I want to appeal to the peoples of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine — stop your crazy politicians, don’t let war break out.”
He did not mention neighbouring Latvia, which, like Poland and Lithuania, is a NATO member.
The Belarusian leader also blasted the European Parliament’s decision not to recognise the Belarusian elections.
“I want to say the following in response to this, so that no one worries in Russia or Belarus. We held elections based on the constitution and laws of our country, and we don’t require recognition from anyone,” he said.