Russia: Belarus election was fair and open

MOSCOW, March 21 (UPI) -- Observers from Russia and the CIS countries have declared that the Belarusian presidential election was fair and that the results must be respected.

Contradicting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which called the vote "severely flawed," the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that the election complied with universally recognized standards, Interfax reported.

"The elections reflected high civic awareness and people's wish for stability and more socially oriented policies. Belarusians clearly expressed their will, and it must be respected," the ministry said in a statement.

Vladimir Rushailo, chief of the Commonwealth of Independent States observer mission, said Monday in Minsk: "The election complied with Belarusian election legislation, and voter turnout was high. CIS observers see the Belarusian presidential election as open and transparent."

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was elected to a third term Sunday with 82.6 percent of the vote. OSCE election observers said the election was marred by harassment of opposition activists, biased media coverage and obstruction of independent monitors, the BBC reported.

The European Union has said it will likely impose sanctions on Belarus. The United States has said it does not accept the results of Sunday's election.