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KIEV, Aug 14 — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged authorities in neighbouring Belarus to halt illegal detentions and violent repression of protesters following strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed Sunday election win.
Ukraine has a close interest in events in Belarus and urged its citizens to find “an exclusively peaceful and democratic way out of the social and political conflict,” Zelensky wrote on Facebook
Authorities should “categorically refrain from illegal detentions and violence,” he added.
Zelensky said that three Ukrainian rights activists and journalists detained at opposition protests in Minsk on Wednesday had been freed.
The popular protests in Belarus over rigged polls and police violence have prompted comparisons to Ukraine’s pro-Western uprising in 2014.
The Maidan protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev saw deadly violence against demonstrators but resulted in the ouster of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia.
In Kiev, hundreds of people are holding daily protests against Lukashenko’s rule outside the Belarusian embassy.
Yesterday, Zelensky said that Ukraine had seen similar situations.
“I would like for there to be no deaths and wounded, and for the authorities to establish dialogue with society,” he said at a briefing.
While some ex-Soviet leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenia’s Nikol Pashinyan congratulated Lukashenko on his reelection, Zelensky has aligned with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, all three now EU members.
Ukraine sees Belarus, which borders its northwestern regions, as a strategically important bulwark against former Soviet master Russia.
Kiev and Western allies accuse the Kremlin of providing military backing for pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Minsk has hosted peace talks involving Kiev, Moscow, the separatists and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on the conflict, which has caused more than 13,000 deaths since 2014. — AFP
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