United States criticizes closure of OSCE mission in Belarus

The United States has criticized Belarusian authorities for terminating the OSCE mission in the country and called the decision "a step backwards" in the development of democracy in Belarus.

Belarusian authorities have discontinued the mandate of the Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the country's capital Minsk after Europe's top rights watchdog lambasted December's presidential elections.

"The United States deeply regrets the Government of Belarus' decision to terminate the Mission of the OSCE Office in Minsk... unfortunately, this is a step backwards in the development of democratic government and respect for human rights in Belarus," Philip Crowley said at a press briefing on Monday.

According to Crowley, the OSCE Mission in Belarus "was founded to assist the Belarusian Government in institution building, promoting the rule of law, and encouraging outreach to civil society," but these tasks have not been accomplished yet, judging by the results of the recent presidential elections in the country.

Belarus' iron-fisted leader since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States "Europe's last dictator," won a landslide victory and a fourth term on December 19 as the opposition and OSCE observers cried foul over what they called vote rigging.

The Belarusian opposition took thousands to the streets following the election in protest against the results of the polls. Riot police brutally dispersed the demonstration in Minsk after a crowd tried to storm parliament. Many people, including several presidential candidates, were injured in clashes with police, and at least 600 people were detained.

Washington has already condemned the electoral violence in Belarus, including the attacks on presidential candidates and rough treatment of journalists and civil society activists.

WASHINGTON, January 4 (RIA Novosti)


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