Belarus alleges coup plot

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Friday, 17 March: 11.30 CET) - Belarus' secret service (KGB) chief has said the agency had evidence of a plot to overthrow the current regime by force during Sunday's presidential elections.

KGB chief Stepan Sukhorenko accused the US and some European countries of involvement in plotting unrest in the capital, Minsk.

"The hands of specific organizations and countries are obviously at work here, in the first place, the United States, which puts pressure on Europe and Brussels with the aim to organize for well-orchestrated pressure on our country," Sukhorenko told local media.

Sukhorenko said the KGB had evidence that Georgian secret services were engaged in subversive activities in Minsk and that tens of millions of dollars were being spent on preparations for protest actions and terrorist attacks by the opposition.

At a press conference, Sukhorenko showed a video of an interview with man who said he had been at a training camp in Georgia under the instruction of four Arabs and officers of the former Soviet army. Some of the video footage, he claimed, was of Georgian nationals confessing they had been tasked with delivering money to create disturbances on Sunday.

Georgian authorities have denied the accusations.

Under Belarusian law, a coup attempt is treated as an act of terrorism, punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty. The KGB chief warned protesters that they could be arrested and charged with terrorism.

"For those who take the risk of going out into the street and try to destabilize the situation, their actions will be qualified as terrorism," he said.

Main opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich has called on his supporters to gather in Minsk on Sunday night to defend their rights to freely elect the next president, despite warnings that the assembly would be illegal.

On Thursday, the EU threatened to tighten the sanctions against Belarus if the elections were not free and fair. The EU also demanded the release of dozens of opposition activists detained ahead of the poll.

(By ISN Security Watch staff and news agencies)