Belarus president accuses Russia, Poland of election interference

Minsk (AFP) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused Russia and Poland of interfering in an upcoming presidential election on Thursday, which the Kremlin quickly denied.
The strong leader of the authoritarian ex-Soviet state is aiming for his sixth term as president in the elections scheduled for August 9.
The interference comes from "those who live in Poland and those who spur Russia on," said Lukashenko at a meeting with newly appointed government officials.
Lukashenko said he would discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the near future, but warned that the situation would remain "extremely difficult".
Many of Lukashenko's critics have been detained in the past few weeks, and opposition activists, who have received strong public support, have fought hard to vote, observers say.
Lukashenko, who was in Moscow on Wednesday, said that "terrible forgeries" were being spread about him, some in Russian anonymous social media accounts.
"It's not ours, the information comes from Russia," he said.
"The most modern false technologies are used, there are interventions from abroad in our elections, our internal affairs."
The Belarusian Ministry of Interior later accused "telegram channels" of organizing protests.
Several bloggers were arrested in Belarus, starting with former President Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was accused of injuring a police officer and arrested in May.
On Thursday, the popular opposition telegram channel Belarus of the Brain with around 170,000 followers said that the police had arrested one of their authors, Igor Losik, and searched his apartment.
Another blogger who was arrested in Slutsk, a city south of Minsk, was accused of "insulting an official" and planning riots, the rights group Viasna said Thursday.
The Kremlin has now flatly denied the allegations.
Russia "does not interfere and will not interfere in a country's electoral processes, let alone those running in our ally Belarus," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
- 'pure propaganda' -
Lukashenko's main election competitor Viktor Babaryko was arrested this month for suspected financial crimes, and the next day the president announced that his government had thwarted a foreign conspiracy to spark a popular uprising.
"Obviously puppeteers are behind them," said Lukashenko about his political opponents. "They come from both sides. They contribute from Poland and Russia."
Deputy BNF leader Alexei Yanukevych called the allegations "pure propaganda to discredit the opposition."
"If Russia really tries to interfere, why not fight against Russia, why against Belarusian society?" he said AFP.
Ahead of the vote, there were a number of opposition activities triggered by the campaign by Tikhanovsky, a popular video blogger, in stark contrast to the incumbent's traditional Soviet campaign approach.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international election and war monitor, has not recognized surveys in Belarus as free and fair since 1995.
Lukashenko visited Moscow this week to take part in a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of Germany's National Socialist defeat in World War II.
Russia and Belarus have long had close trade and military cooperation, but the Kremlin has called for deeper integration, while Lukashenko opposes total unification.

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