Lukashenko orders army to defend Belarus’ borders

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Claims by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that “foreign powers” are organising a build-up of troops on the country’s border are baseless, says NATO.

Dressed in military fatigues, the president said he had placed his armed forces on “high alert”.

Protests continued in the streets of Minsk on Saturday following a disputed election two weeks ago.

Demonstrators are demanding that Mr Lukashenko stand down.

The leader, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, claimed the NATO bloc was trying to split up Belarus and install a new president in Minsk.

He said troops in Poland and Lithuania were readying themselves, and that he was moving his armed forces to the country’s western border.

NATO rejected the claim, saying it posed “no threat to Belarus or any other country and has no military build-up in the region. Our posture is strictly defensive.”

“The regime is trying to divert attention from Belarus’s internal problems at any cost with totally baseless statements about imaginary external threats,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda was quoted as saying.

A Polish presidency official called the suggestion that Poland planned any border destablisation “regime propaganda” by the Belarusians, which was “sad and surprising”. “Poland… has no such intention,” the official added.

Lithuania’s foreign ministry also announced that US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will visit Lithuania and Russia next week for talks on the elections fallout.

Mr Lukashenko’s election challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is now in exile in Lithuania, will meet Mr Biegun on Monday.

She has urged pro-democracy protesters to keep up the momentum, saying President Lukashenko had “no choice” but to engage with the opposition.

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