WASHINGTON/MINSK-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is demanding an immediate end to the violent crackdown by Belarus's government on opposition supporters after a disputed election on August 9 that gave longtime authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka a new six-year term.
Pompeo, speaking at a news conference on September 2, also said that the United States, in consultation with its transatlantic partners, was reviewing significant targeted sanctions on anyone involved in human rights abuses in Belarus.
George Kent, who serves as deputy assistant secretary overseeing policy towards Belarus, said the United States will continue to talk to allies to coordinate on possible sanctions against those responsible for the beatings and election manipulation.
Kent, speaking at a conference in Washington, said the United States and its allies would have a tough response if Russia intervenes in Belarus, adding that if Moscow thinks relations with the West in the last few years have been tough, "it can get worse."
Lukashenka's government has "lost all legitimacy in the eyes" of the Belarusian people, he said. Thus it would be "catastrophic" for Russia's image in Belarus to intervene militarily on his behalf.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens have taken to the streets across Belarus to protest the "rigged" results that gave Lukashenka more than 80 percent of the vote. The protesters are calling on the 66-year-old Lukashenka to step down, release all political prisoners, and hold free and fair elections.
Many countries around the world have rejected the election results and criticized Lukashenka's crackdown on protesters and opposition members both before and after the vote.
Anti-government demonstrations have continued in Belarus, a day after more than 120 people were detained for taking part in unsanctioned rallies against longtime authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
A total of 128 people were held across Belarus on September 1 amid a crackdown on a weekslong protest movement, the Interior Ministry said on September 2.
In Minsk, a total of 95 people, including more than 30 students, are accused of legal violations for attending unauthorized protests the previous day, the ministry said, adding that 39 of them will remain in custody until courts hear their cases.
Meanwhile, several dozen journalists gathered outside a police station in the capital in support for six of their colleagues from Belarusian news outlets who were detained while covering the protest.
Elsewhere, more than 100 students of the Minsk State Linguistics University formed a human chain to protest the detentions of students and professors. At least eight participants were detained, according to the Vyasna human rights center.
The authorities raided the Minsk office of software company PandaDoc and detained its director in a move the company's chief executive said was politically motivated.
PandaDoc CEO Mikita Mikado, who has launched an initiative to help law enforcement officers who will leave the service, said that the homes of employees had also been searched.
Much of Europe, as well as the United States and other countries, have rejected the election results and criticized Lukashenka's crackdown on protesters and opposition members both before and after the vote.
Amid growing Western pressure, Lukashenka has vowed to cement ties with neighboring Russia.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.
During a visit to Moscow on September 2, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey thanked Russia for supporting the Belarusian government in the face of what he described as protests orchestrated from abroad.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, appearing alongside Makey, criticized "destructive" Western criticism of the Belarusian authorities and made an unsubstantiated claim that "some 200 extremists trained on Ukrainian territory are now in the Republic of Belarus."
He said Moscow would respond "firmly and with dignity" to any attempts to destabilize Belarus or loosen its strong ties to Russia.
Lavrov also said the chiefs of staff of the Russian and Belarusian armies discussed preparations for a joint military drill in Belarus this year ahead of a visit on September 4 of the Belarusian defense minister to Moscow.
Belarusian Defense Minister Major General Viktar Khrenin is to attend meetings of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is set to visit Belarus on September 3.
The next day in Moscow, Belarusian Defense Minister Major General Viktar Khrenin is to attend meetings of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.