Belarus election arrests defended

Belarusian President Alexander
Lukashenko, who preliminary results show easily won election to a fourth term
Sunday, praised police actions in dispersing post-election demonstrators and
castigated the protesters as “vandals and thugs.”

“What (protesters) tried to
carry out in Minsk is not democracy, it is banditism,” Lukashenko said in
a news conference, according to BelTA, Belarus’ state-run news agency.
“Vandals and thugs lost their human faces. They went utterly wild.”

Following the announcement that Lukashenko
had prevailed with 79 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary election
results, opposition candidates and their supporters took to the streets in
Minsk, the capital, and clashed with police.

The country’s Central Election
Commission told the state-run Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) that the
voter turnout was 90 per cent and that it had not received any complaints.
However, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that
while the election showed improvement, “Belarus still has a considerable
way to go in meeting its OSCE commitments.”

Belarus’ Interior Ministry, in a
statement on its website, said “several thousand of the most aggressive
delinquents” were arrested.

“The overwhelming majority of
them were drunk unemployed people and students of various schools and
universities, some of them under age,” the ministry said.

“Actions like those wouldn’t
have been tolerated in any civilized country,” Lukashenko told reporters.

 “Nobody in the West would have been soft
towards those thugs.

Water cannons, tear gas, mass
arrests of hooligans — and they’d be done away with in no time.”

Lukashenko called the elections
free and transparent, and he added police acted strictly according to the law,
restoring order in seven and a half minutes.

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