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Lithuania, Ukraine Reject Lukashenka's 'Provocateurs' Claim

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)

Lithuania and Ukraine have rejected Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's allegations that they were involved in what Lukashenka called a planned "armed provocation" in Belarus.

On March 21, Lukashenka said that some 20 armed militants who had been trained in militant camps in Belarus, Ukraine, and "most likely" in Lithuania and Poland, had been apprehended on suspicion of planning "armed provocations" across the country.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters on March 22 that Lukashenka's statement was groundless and suggested he had resorted to a Soviet-style "search for enemies."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said on March 22 that Lukashenka's statement "does not correspond to reality, is provocative and imposes damage on neighborly ties between Ukraine and Belarus."

Lukashenka's statement came a day after he referred to political opponents in his country as a "fifth column" that wants "to impose tension in Belarus with financial assistance from Western foundations and secret services."

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the former Soviet republic in recent weeks to protest an unemployment tax in the largest antigovernment demonstrations in Belarus in years.

More than 150 protesters have been arrested since March 1, and dozens have been fined or sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.

There have been no reports of armed protesters.

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