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Belarusians protest against presidential election results in Minsk Belarusians protest against presidential election results in Minsk 

NATO denies assembling troops at Belarus border

Member states of the NATO military alliance are denying allegations by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that their troops are preparing to invade Belarus.

By Stefan J. Bos 

Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis accused Lukashenko of trying to take away attention from the growing protests demanding his resignation.

There is no unusual movement of NATO troops in Lithuania, including the forces of the Lithuanian Armed Forces," he said. "The story is a continuation of Lukashenko's narrative of external enemies."

His remarks came after the authoritarian leader appeared in military clothing, inspecting his troops close to the nation's western borders. Lukashenko told them he ordered his defense minister to take "stringent measures" to defend territorial integrity after mass rallies against his claim to election victory.

"You see, they are already promoting an alternative president," Lukashenko told his troops. "They are doing this seriously because Western states have plenty of statements on financing and support."

Lukashenko warned that NATO would "deploy troops," adding: "That's it. You can put an end to Belarus." The Belarussian-NATO tensions came ahead of Sunday's expected massive protests against Lukashenko's 26-year-rule.

However, Belarussian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to neighboring Lithuania, urged security forces not to use violence against peaceful protestors. "We call for not to fulfill this order to shoot or just to go against peaceful people. Because we and you, I mean police and usual people, we are one nation," she stressed.

No beating

"And Belarussiansians can't beat Belarussians. Just you and we are the same. You can't go against your mothers and your sisters and your brothers. You don't have to this," Tsikhanouskaya added.

In separate remarks, the 37-year-old former English teacher made clear that she does not view herself as the future president of Belarus but as a symbol of change.

Tsikhanouskaya suggested she could be an interim leader during a transition of power until calm is restored in the troubled nation. Her comments come while President Lukashenko appears to struggle to maintain control over his traditional supporters base. 

In recent days Lukashenko even faced an angry crowd when trying to give a speech at the Minsk tractor works, one of the large state-run industrial plants. Workers chanted "resign resign" as Lukashenko walked off the stage.

But for now, there are no signs that the long-time leader is willing to step down soon. Some 7,000 people were detained during the first days of protest since the August 9 disputed presidential election.

Besides, hundreds of people were injured, and several protesters killed, in clashes with security forces.

23 August 2020, 17:05