Belarus: UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calls for new 'free and fair' election

·2-min read

The UK's foreign secretary has called for new elections to be held in Belarus following the publication of an independent report into August's contested vote.

In a statement, Dominic Raab said: "We pushed for this independent investigation and it has exposed the fraud at the heart of the presidential elections and the despicable actions taken by Lukashenko's regime to suppress the Belarusian people.

"New elections which are free and fair must now be organised, and those responsible for the violence against demonstrators held to account."

The Foreign Office said the report found August's election had been "falsified" and that it exposed the extent of human rights violations committed by President Alexander Lukashenko.

It comes after police in Belarus fired stun grenades to disperse protesters ahead of a nationwide strike called by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya last week.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile in neighbouring Lithuania, had previously set out a "people's ultimatum" for President Lukashenko to step down.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report said authorities were responsible for "massive and systematic human rights violations in response to peaceful demonstrations and protests".

No one has been held accountable in what the report described as a "climate of impunity" in the country in which "the freedom of the media and the safety of journalists are under sustained attack by the Belarusian regime", it said.

Despite the intimidation, protests have taken place every weekend since the 9 August election, with as many as 100,000 people marching in the capital Minsk, on one day last month.

The Vesna-96 rights group published the names of 221 people who had been detained during the latest march on Sunday.

Mr Lukashenko, who has described protesters as "rats", and refuses to quit, has ruled Belarus for more than 25 years.

The US, EU, UK and Canada have all imposed sanctions on the Lukashenko regime since the election.