Riot police detain a protester during an opposition rally to protest against the presidential inauguration in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in for his sixth term at an unannounced inauguration ceremony ahead amid massive protests over weeks of saying that the authoritarian leader’s re-election was rigged. Hundreds of people took to the streets in several cities at night to protest the inauguration. (AP / TUT.by Photo)
France is increasing pressure on long-time Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, with President Emmanuel Macron telling the leading French weekly that “Lukashenko must leave.”
The European Union said Thursday it did not recognize Lukashenko as the president of Belarus because of massive protests by Belarusians who questioned the outcome of last month’s presidential election which Lukashenko claims he won so much. Opposition members and some polling officials in Belarus say the vote was rigged.
Ahead of Monday’s trip to Lithuania and Latvia, Macron was quoted as saying in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday as saying it was “clear that Lukashenko had to leave.”
“What is happening in Belarus is a crisis of power, an authoritarian force that cannot accept the logic of democracy and endures violence,” the paper quoted Macron as saying.
In a speech Saturday before the UN General Assembly, Belarus’ foreign minister warned Western countries against meddling or imposing sanctions over the country’s disputed presidential election and government crackdown on protesters.
Thousands of Belarusians have taken part in major rallies since the August 9 elections, which they say were rigged in support of Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years and has just taken secret oaths of office for a new term.