UN chief 'deeply concerned' over Belarus


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday he was "deeply concerned" over the use of force in Belarus against peaceful protesters, stressing that the country's crisis can only be resolved "by the Belarusian people."

He also expressed worry over "the detention of people exercising their legitimate democratic rights," in a statement that additionally touched on his concern over "reports of intimidation tactics against civil society, media and opposition figures."

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Belarus since August 9 elections which opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she won, despite strongman Alexander Lukashenko's insistence he carried off a landslide victory.

Lukashenko has cracked down on the protest movement with thousands detained and those held in custody giving accounts of police violence and torture. Several people have died in the crackdown.

"The current crisis can only be resolved by the Belarusian people through a broad-based, inclusive dialogue, which should start immediately in the interest of stability," Guterres said.

He additionally called on authorities "to refrain from the use of force" against peaceful protesters.

Guterres called on authorities to ensure that "allegations of torture and other mistreatment of people in detention are fully investigated and addressed."

On Monday, Lukashenko will meet in the Black Sea resort of Sochi with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss plans to further integrate their countries.