Merkel calls Belarus opposition leader to support free elections there

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, in Berlin
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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked on the phone with Belarusian opposition leader in exile Svetlana Tikhanouskaya about the political crisis in Belarus and the "difficult situation" at the border with the European Union, a government spokesperson said on Monday.

"The Chancellor underlined the continued support of the Federal Government for the Belarusian democracy movement and stressed that the political leadership of the country must end the repression against the opposition and independent journalists, release prisoners and enter into a serious dialogue with society in order to resolve the crisis through fair and free elections," spokesperson Steffen Seibert said.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed a resounding victory in last year's presidential election despite the widely held view that the vote was fraudulent. Various opposition groups say Tikhanouskaya won.

The resulting crackdown has involved hundreds thrown in prison and there have been allegations that opposition activists were tortured. It also spurred a lively opposition movement in countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Germany where many Belarusians live.

In the latest confrontation between the EU and Minsk since the election, Europe accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross the Polish border into the EU.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by David Gregorio)

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