Belarus accuses Poland, Germany of plotting 'coup'

By Andrei Makhovsky

MINSK (Reuters) - State-controlled media in Belarus accused the intelligence services of Germany and Poland on Friday of trying to organise a coup during last month's presidential election in the former Soviet republic.

The re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, led to huge protests and hundreds of arrests. Opponents and international observers denounced his landslide win on Dec. 19 as fraudulent.

Four challengers for the presidency remain in custody.

Sovietskaya Belarussia newspaper, mouthpiece of Lukashenko's administration, said transcripts it published on Friday of what it said were comments by opposition figures showed that a coup had been afoot. The transcripts included statements to police.

"There is no doubt that the special services, above all of Poland and Germany, played a part in the events of Dec. 19," the newspaper said.

"Poland became a launch pad for organising forces capable of overthrowing the legitimate authorities of Belarus. Special training camps were set up there for activists. The future ruling class was trained there," it added.

Warsaw and Berlin are prominent among European Union states voicing concern about events in Poland's eastern neighbour.

Sovietskaya Belarussia said that the political opposition had been financed by the West: "Hundreds of thousands of dollars were brought to Minsk in suitcases, accompanied by happy smiles and assurances of correct behaviour," it said.


International election monitors also denounced the count as flawed and Belarus has since told the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which criticised the police crackdown, to leave the country.

Western governments have urged Lukashenko to free opposition activists and renewed sanctions by the 27-member European Union, possibly including re-instatement of a visa ban on Lukashenko and top aides, could be on the cards.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, whose country took over the OSCE's rotating chairmanship from Jan. 1, said on Thursday he would continue to urge Belarus to change its ways and warn it of the diplomatic consequences.

"They need to release all the prisoners, give them proper medicine, to allow the doctors to come and see them," he said.

Philip Gordon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said on Thursday that the United States would consider shortly whether to reimpose sanctions on Belarus, eased two years ago.

The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus after a disputed ballot in 2006 but suspended their application in 2008 to encourage democratic reforms in a country of 10 million which is a transit route for Russian gas to the EU.

(Writing by Richard Balmforth; editing by Alastair Macdonald)


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