Belarus president closes western borders, puts army on high alert
Belarus’s president, beleaguered by six weeks of mass protests demanding his resignation, has announced he is putting troops on high alert and closing the country’s borders with Poland and Lithuania.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s decision on Thursday underlined his repeated claim that the wave of protests is driven by the West. He faces increasing criticism from the United States and the European Union.
Protests began after the disputed August 9 presidential election. Official results gave the authoritarian leader a sixth term in office but opponents say the results were manipulated.
“We are forced to withdraw troops from the streets, put the army on high alert and close the state border on the west, primarily with Lithuania and Poland,” Lukashenko said at a women’s forum.
Lukashenko also said Belarus’s border with Ukraine would be strengthened.
“I don’t want my country to be at war. Moreover, I don’t want Belarus and Poland, Lithuania to turn into a theatre of military operations where our issues will not be resolved,” he said.
“Therefore, today in front of this hall of the most beautiful, advanced, patriotic people I want to appeal to the peoples of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine – stop your crazy politicians, don’t let war break out!”
He did not mention neighbouring Latvia, which like Poland and Lithuania is a NATO member.