Belarus: Mike Pompeo calls for immediate end to violence against opposition groups

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is demanding an immediate end to violence against opposition groups in Belarus.

The warning comes as the US, Canada and Britain are discussing possible sanctions against the Belarusian government as the crisis continues over its crackdown against protests following the country’s disputed election.

Western nations are trying to pressure Belarus into holding new elections but are seeking to avoid a confrontation with Russia.

The European Union is considering sanctions on a list of names linked to the repression of protests about the vote’s outcome.

It is thought to be coordinating such moves with the US and sanctions are thought to be imminent.

The Belarusian government is accused of falsifying the results of the 9 August election and claiming the country’s longstanding leader Alexander Lukashenko won 80% of the vote.

Belarusian authorities are continuing to put down protests against the election.

Dozens of journalists protested the detention of colleagues who had been arrested for covering a demonstration against the president.

Some Belarusian journalists have seen their accreditation revoked and some foreign reporters have been deported.

The journalists had been covering protests that had seen hundreds of students march across the country’s capital Minsk.

Thousands of others have been detained in a month of unrest.

The country’s authoritarian leader shows no sign of buckling to pressure to stand down or hold fresh elections.

He is instead trying to strengthen ties with Russia whose leader President Putin has so far appeared loyal to his neighbour.

Putin has raised the prospect of Russian intervention by saying he would send police into Belarus if demonstrations worsen.

Russian and Belarusian armies were also reported to have discussed preparing a joint military drill.

The Belarusian leader appears still to command the loyalty of his own security forces who he rewarded well over the years.

The crisis in Belarus was precipitated when the country’s government announced the unconvincing outcome of its election and the country’s opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced to flee the country after claiming she had won two-thirds of the vote.

Baltic nations have already imposed travel restrictions on several Belarusian officials and want the West to take tougher a line on their neighbour.

The European Union is wary of action that might inflame the situation and give Russia a pretext for intervention.

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