Belarus Accuses Poland, Germany of Takeover Plot


MOSCOW - Belarus accused Poland and Germany on Friday of plotting to overthrow President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko and impose a puppet government with the aid of paid provocateurs from the Belarussian opposition.

Citing information from what it said was a government investigation, Mr. Lukashenko's official newspaper, Sovietskaya Belorussia, said secret services and even diplomats from both countries helped plan and finance what was supposed to be a violent government takeover after presidential elections last month.

In a front-page story that ran for five more pages, the newspaper offered little to back up the claims beyond documents and transcripts of phone conversations by opposition members outlining political strategy. German and Polish officials dismissed the accusations outright.

The accusations come days after European lawmakers met with a delegation of Belarussian opposition leaders in Brussels and vowed to impose heavy sanctions against Mr. Lukashenko and his government as punishment for a heavy-handed crackdown on opponents after the elections.

Human rights groups say that the security services, still called the K.G.B. in Belarus, have been conducting daily raids on the homes and offices of opposition sympathizers. Independent news outlets have been closed, and people suspected of links to the opposition hauled to local K.G.B. precincts across the country for interrogation.

Thousands of people poured into the streets of the Belarussian capital, Minsk, after the elections on Dec. 19. The protest was largely peaceful, though some demonstrators broke through the glass doors of the government headquarters before the police stopped them. More than 600 people were arrested, including seven of the nine candidates who opposed Mr. Lukashenko, when truncheon-wielding police officers violently dispersed the rally.

Many said they were there to protest Mr. Lukashenko's stranglehold on the former Soviet republic. The president controls almost all institutions in Belarus, including the news media, schools and universities, and much of the economy. He won the election with almost 80 percent of the vote. Independent observers said the ballot counting was rigged.

Yet, according to Sovietskaya Belorussia, and by extension Mr. Lukashenko, the protesters had different intentions.

"The main goal was to remove Lukashenko and place some kind of obedient puppet in his place as the head of the country and calmly observe the torture of the people thrown into an artificially created chaos," the newspaper wrote.

According to this version, the security services had to respond swiftly and harshly to thwart a planned coup on the night of the elections.

"These people were not arrested for their political views," the newspaper wrote. "They were arrested for concrete actions, expressed in particular in the attempt to seize the government headquarters and sow chaos in the country."

The newspaper said that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been funneled to the opposition from leaders in Europe. It published what it said were documents confiscated from opposition groups that described meetings with European officials at cafes in Brussels and elsewhere to discuss the formation of a "a new opposition force."

In this scenario, Poland was to be "the base for organizing and forming forces able to replace the lawful government of Belarus."

With aid from Poland, Germany and other European Union governments, the opposition was to organize a "color revolution" similar to those that toppled authoritarian leaders in other former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia.

In none of the documents supposedly confiscated from opposition groups are there details of a possible violent coup. One document outlines plans to transform the country into a parliamentary democracy and recalibrate relations with Russia. Another describes a strategy of spreading false rumors, for example, about Mr. Lukashenko being in poor health and hiding money in foreign banks. The newspaper wrote that more information would be released in the coming days.

At a news conference, Marcin Bosacki, a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry, called the claims "dramatic propaganda" that "border on the absurd."

The accusations bode ill for opposition leaders. More than 30 of them are in jail facing up to 15 years in prison for their roles in what the newspaper called a "conspiracy."

"The main agitators have been arrested and charged," the newspaper wrote. "There is an ongoing investigation that will put all in their place."

Joanna Berendt contributed reporting from Warsaw.


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