Reinsalu: Situation in Belarus calls for strong EU response ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Raigo Pajula

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has called on the European Union to respond strongly to authorities in Belarus after opposition demonstrations following Sunday's presidential election were dispersed using water cannons, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.

ERR News wrote on Monday that following the elections in Belarus on Sunday, the Belarusian Central Election Commission said the results of the election showed Alexander Lukashenko received 80.23 percent of the total votes, with opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya winning only 9.9 percent.

The results sparked protests across Belarus on Sunday night, which saw clashes between police and protesters.

Reinsalu commented on ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Monday: "We deem it necessary to call for an immediate release of all people arrested for political reasons. We also consider it important that violence would stop and would not be used against the peaceful protests."

The opposition candidates and their supporters, along with many EU countries, including Estonia, have repeatedly stated that they expected the vote to be rigged.

"I have been in contact with Baltic colleagues in the morning. We will meet with the foreign ministers of the Baltics, Poland and Finland in Riga on Tuesday. One of the central topics will certainly be the situation in Belarus."

Poland has called for an emergency European Council meeting on the topic of elections in Belarus.

Reinsalu added: "It is important to Estonia that the EU would give a common and clear response to the Belarusian regime. I am in support of Poland's proposal to call for an emergency European Council meeting to discuss what is happening in Belarus.

On Monday, Reinsalu posted on social media that he is very concerned over developments in Belarus and he urges authorities to refrain from violence.

Reinsalu wrote: "It's utterly important that Belarus respects freedom of speech and assembly."

According to eyewitness reports and human rights center Viasna, at least 120 people have been detained and one person has been confirmed dead during the protests.

Alexander Lukashenko elected President of Belarus for sixth term

According to a state TV exit poll, Alexander Lukashenko received 80.23 percent of the total votes, with opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya winning only 9.9 percent.

Exit poll abroad - Estonia, a project conducted by Belarusians in Estonia, questioned Belarusian voters about their choice after they had cast their ballots on Sunday. Voting took place at the Belarusian embassy in Tallinn.

The project's official results were published early Monday morning showing 345 voters in favor of the opposition candidate and 271 votes cast for Lukashenko. In total, 648 ballots were cast at the Tallinn embassy, according to data collected by the organization. This means 53.2 percent of the votes were cast in favor of Tikhanovskaya and 41.8 percent for Lukashenko.

Preliminary polls published on Sunday evening on the group's Facebook page (shown below) showed large-scale support for Tikhanovskaya, with close to two-thirds of respondents saying they voted for the opposition candidate.

Final results for all 25 cities polled by the organization can be seen here.

The opposition candidates and their supporters, along with many European Union countries, including Estonia, have repeatedly stated that they expected the vote to be rigged.

The lead-up to the election saw a crackdown on activists and journalists and opposition candidates jailed and banned from running amid the country's biggest opposition demonstrations in years. Belarusians in Estonia also protested for free and fair elections on June 29.

Tikhanovskaya announced her intention to run for president in place of her husband, an internet figure known primarily for his activism against the incumbent president, after he was arrested on May 29.

After gaining support from many prominent opposition politicians and citizens, she was registered as an independent candidate.

After a three-hour meeting with the Central Election Commission of Belarus, Tikhanovskaya has relocated to Lithuania, as confirmed by Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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