Aug 11, 2020 08:11 UTC
  • Germany warns of sanctions over Belarus' disputed presidential vote

Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has threatened to reactivate EU sanctions against Belarus over a disputed presidential vote that has led to angry street protests with thousands arrested.

Referring to sanctions against Belarus previously lifted because of initial progress improving the rule of law, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday the bloc must review "whether this can still be valid in the light of the past weeks and days."

Speaking in Berlin after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha, Maas also called for the immediate release of all protesters arrested for demonstrating peacefully.

Earlier in the day, Berlin had voiced "strong doubts" about the vote in Belarus.

"We have strong doubts -- and from our point of view justified doubts -- about the... conduct of these elections," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a press conference.

"Minimum standards for democratic elections were not met" and this was "not acceptable", he said, adding that "the numerous reports of systematic irregularities and violations of electoral law are credible."

Berlin also condemned the "use of violence against peacefully demonstrating people" as well as "numerous arrests."

"The political leadership of the country must accept the will of its citizens," Seibert said.

Belarus on Monday declared a landslide election victory for strongman Alexander Lukashenko after police used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters denouncing the vote as a fraud.

The protests erupted after an exit poll for Sunday's election showed Lukashenko soundly beating main opposition challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Police in Belarus detained 3,000 people for taking part in unauthorized gatherings during post-election demonstrations on Sunday.

Tikhanovskaya on Monday rejected the result of the vote and demanded that the authorities transfer power to the opposition.