Lukashenko calls Belarus protesters ‘sheep’ under foreign control
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday described opposition supporters who protested against a disputed vote that handed him a sixth term as “sheep” controlled from abroad.
The 65-year-old strongman condemned protesters for “wanting to spoil the holiday” in comments reported by Belta state news agency.
Thousands poured onto the streets in Minsk and other cities to protest after election results they criticised as falsified and encountered a harsh response from riot police firing rubber bullets.
Hundreds were detained and dozens wounded and a prominent rights group said one protester died, though police denied this.
In his first comments after preliminary results were announced giving him more than 80 percent of the vote, Lukashenko said the authorities monitored participants and claimed that protesters received orders from foreign countries.
“We recorded calls from abroad. There were calls from Poland, Britain and the Czech Republic, they were directing our — forgive me — sheep,” Lukashenko told the head of an election observation delegation from the former USSR, Belta reported.
“I warned that there wouldn’t be a Maidan, however much some people want that,” Lukashenko said, referring to a 2014 popular uprising in Ukraine that toppled a pro-Kremlin leader.
“People need to settle down, calm down,” he said.
He said riot police cracked down in retaliation after protesters wounded around 25 officers, causing fractures to arms and legs.
“They were beating these guys specially, deliberately. They responded. So why weep and cry now?” Lukashenko said.
“That’s why the response will be appropriate. We won’t let them tear the country apart.”