Belarus president Lukashenko suggests he will step down once new constitution adopted

Belarus has been rocked by several months of anti-government protests after Mr Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 9 presidential election, amid claims from opponents it was rigged

Joe Middleton
Friday 27 November 2020 21:27
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Belarusian pensioners march during a rally to protest against Mr Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus
Belarusian pensioners march during a rally to protest against Mr Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko on Friday suggested he would leave his post as Belurusian president after a new constitution has been adopted, it has been reported.

Mr Lukashenko said: "I will not work as president with you under the new constitution," Belarus' Belta news agency cited him as saying.

The embattled autocrat did not specify when that day would come but reiterated the need for amendments to the constitution.

Belarus has been rocked by several months of anti-government protests after Mr Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 9 presidential election.

However opponents, including his now-exiled main challenger in the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said the vote was rigged and have called for his resignation and a new election.

Mr Lukashenko has discussed amending the Belarus constitution, which is seen as an attempt to end the political crisis in the country, and was urged this week by Russia's Foreign Minister Segey Lavrov to deliver on his promises.

Mr Lavrov said: “We of course have an interest in the situation being calm, stable and we think that beginning the constitutional reform initiated by the country's leadership would contribute to this.”

Meanwhile protests have continued to sweep the country despite crackdowns from Belarusian security forces.

Early this month, an independent report found the country should hold new elections after “massive and systemic” human rights violations.

The document, written by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), also said that “excessive violence” was used against protesters, amid allegations of “serious cases of torture”.

Supporters of Ms Tsikhanouskaya said on Friday they would lobby state prosecutors in several European countries to investigate accusations of torture by Belarusian authorities.

"It's terrible in Belarus, and I don't think anything similar is happening anywhere in Europe. We need outside help", Maksim Kharoshyn told a news conference in Vilnius, saying he had been beaten by Belarusian police while in detention.

A petition filed with Lithuanian prosecutors on Kharoshyn's behalf asks them to investigate several officials including Belarusian Deputy Interior Minister Nikolai Karpenkov in the case, said Alexander Dobrovolski, an adviser to Tsikhanouskaya.

Dobrovolski said similar requests would be sent to prosecutors in Poland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, where other alleged victims of Belarusian police beatings now reside.

Belarus denies torturing prisoners and says its police show restraint in dealing with protesters it has said are in league with hostile foreign powers.

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