New elections are needed in Belarus under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said.
The best solution would be to repeat the vote “under the control of OSCE,” Borrell said in an opinion piece published in Journal du Dimanche. “In the meantime, we can’t just express our worries; we need to sanction those who are responsible if the EU wants to be coherent.”
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been ratcheting up a crackdown following his contested landslide victory in the Aug. 9 elections, including by banning foreign journalists from covering street protests.
The U.S. and the European Union have accused Lukashenko of rigging the vote in his favor and have criticized the subsequent police repression of protesters. The EU has pledged to expand its sanctions against Belarus, which has been ruled by Lukashenko since 1994.
His closest ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the election outcome was legitimate and offered to send police officers to Belarus. Putin said OSCE observers had declined an invitation from the Belarusian authorities to monitor the election.
“This conflict does not oppose Europe to Russia, but Belarus to its leaders,” Borrell wrote. “Protesters who are denying election results don’t wave the EU flag, but the country’s former flag.”
Borrell regretted that Moscow was “seeking to prevent Europeans from providing help to civil society that’s revolted against rigged presidential elections.”
The EU representative’s careful stance echoed comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who on Friday said a Russian intervention in Belarus would be “the worst.”