The White House on Monday urged Russia to “respect” sovereignty and democracy in neighboring Belarus where strongman President Alexander Lukashenko faces mass demonstrations calling for new elections.
“Russia must also respect Belarus’ sovereignty and the right of its own people to elect their own leaders freely and fairly,” President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, told reporters.
Lukashenko has the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has raised the possibility of sending military support if Belarus “starts to get out of control.”
McEnany said “the massive amount of Belarusians protesting peacefully makes clear that the government can no longer ignore the people’s call for democracy.”
She added that Washington supports probes into “electoral irregularities, human rights abuses and the government crackdown.”
The US demand to Russia follows the European Union’s urging on Friday that Moscow refrain from intervening in Belarus.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, claimed reelection on August 9 with 80 percent of the vote. He says that the West wanted to see the back of him for its own ends.
Putin, who has been in power for two decades, has said a group of law enforcement officers is ready to move into Belarus if “extremist elements” go too far.
‘Stop Torturing Protesters,’ UN Experts Tell Belarus
The UN’s special rapporteur on torture told Belarus on Tuesday that it must “stop torturing protesters” and bring to justice any police officers who have beaten them with impunity.
Nils Melzer and 14 other UN human rights experts said in a statement they had received reports of 450 documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty in the mass protests and arrests following the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
“We are extremely alarmed at the hundreds of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody,” they said.
The joint statement was signed, among others, by Anais Marin, special rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, and Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression.
The experts do not speak for the United Nations but report their findings to it.
They said torture “cannot be justified for any reason”, nor could political instability be invoked to practice enforced disappearances.
“Authorities in Belarus must immediately put an end to all human rights violations and combat impunity,” they said.
The experts said 6,700 people had been detained since the August 9 election – inlcuding journalists or passers-by “arbitrarily arrested and hastily sentenced.”
“No person should be criminally charged for their peaceful participation in a demonstration,” said the experts.
“We are also concerned that indiscriminate arrests continued over the weekend at a peaceful women’s march in the capital, Minsk, on Saturday and at peaceful protests in many cities on Sunday,” they added.
The experts said they would continue to monitor the situation and attempt to engage with the Belarus authorities.