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Belarus’s Contested President Launches Criminal Probe Against Opponents As He Clings To Power

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Prosecutors in Belarus opened a criminal probe on Thursday against activists opposing the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, according to the Associated Press.

The probe comes as protests have erupted in Minsk, the country’s capital, over Lukashenko’s contested reelection, NBC reported. The election results showed the president winning over 80% of the vote after 26 years in the position.

Lukashenko has called protesters puppets controlled by the West, according to the Associated Press. The investigation was launched after the president accused the Coordination Council, which was created by opposition organizers, of undermining national security.

“The creation and the activities of the Coordination Council are aimed at seizing power and inflicting damage to the national security,” said Prosecutor General Alexander Konyuk, according to the AP.

State media workers have joined the protests and launched a strike, according to the AP.

European Union leaders have threatened sanctions against the Belarusian government for election fraud and police violence, the AP reported. Nearly 7,000 people were detained and hundreds were injured by police in the first four days of the protests.

Lukashenko said that Russia has promised to provide security assistance if needed, according to the AP.

“We continue to convey our stance that we consider any foreign influence on the developments in Belarus unacceptable,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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