Sat, 26 Sep 2020

The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have called on Belarus to conduct a new, 'free and fair' vote after the country's disputed August 9 presidential election.

The vote handed strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term and sparked nationwide protests that have been brutally put down by security forces.

A new vote should be held 'in a transparent way with the participation of international observers,' the leaders said in a joint statement on August 15 after a meeting in the Estonian city of Tartu.

The three Baltic states urged Belarus to refrain from violence and release political prisoners and detained protesters.

They also called for European Union sanctions on those responsible for the violence.

The statement came as Belarus braces for massive weekend protests calling for the end of Lukashenka 26-year rule.

Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called for peaceful rallies on August 15-16, after she was forced to leave the country for neighboring Lithuania after disputing Lukashenka's claim to a landslide victory.

Protests since the controversial election have witnessed unprecedented scenes on the streets of Minsk and other cities, energizing opposition to Lukashenka despite a brutal crackdown.

With reporting by Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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