Belarus president accuses Russia, Poland of election interference


Moscow (AFP)

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday accused Russia and Poland of interfering in upcoming presidential elections, claims that were quickly denied by the Kremlin.

The interference is coming from "those who live in Poland and those who incite from Russia," Lukashenko said according to the Belta news agency.

Lukashenko said he would discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in the near future but cautioned that the situation remained "extremely difficult."

The strongman leader of authoritarian ex-Soviet Belarus is seeking his sixth term as president in elections scheduled for August 9.

Many of his critics have been jailed in recent weeks and opposition figures who enjoy robust support from the public have fought hard to get on the ballot, observers say.

The Kremlin flatly denied allegations it was meddling in the elections, saying it did not interfere in election campaigns in other countries, particularly close allies.

Russia "isn't meddling, and isn't going to meddle in the electoral processes of any country, let alone those underway in our ally, Belarus," presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Lukashenko's main election rival Viktor Babaryko was arrested this month on suspicion of committing financial crimes and the next day the president announced his government had foiled a foreign plot to stage a popular uprising in Belarus.

Authorities in Minsk claim Babaryko is in cahoots with "puppeteers" from Moscow.

The Belarusian leader on Thursday accused Russia and Poland of being responsible for fake news circulating on the internet that aimed to discredit the authorities ahead of the August vote.

The run-up to the vote has seen a flurry of opposition activity which has stood in stark contrast to the incumbent's traditional Soviet approach to campaigning.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international election and war monitor, has not recognised any polls in Belarus as free and fair since 1995.

Lukashenko visited Moscow this week to participate in a grand military parade to mark 75 years since the Soviet Union's defeat over Nazi Germany.

Russia and Belarus have long had close trade and military cooperation, but the Kremlin has called for deeper integration while Lukashenko has opposed outright unification.