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Rally in support of Belarusian anti-government movement, in Kyiv Rally in support of Belarusian anti-government movement, in Kyiv 

Belarus closes border with Ukraine amid coup accusations

Belarus accuses the United States and several of its allies of organizing a coup and says it has closed its border with Ukraine from where weapons allegedly arrive.

By Stefan J. Bos

President Lukashenko said his security services uncovered "foreign-backed terrorist sleeper cells" plotting to oust him from power.

"Terrorist sleeper cells, so-called self-defense formations, have been detected today," Lukashenko stressed. "These cells about which the detained [journalist] Roman Protasevich recently spoke, and we have known this for a long time, intend to perform a coup at a specified date."

He added that "the coordinators of the plot are Lithuania, Poland, the United States of America, Ukraine, and the Federal Republic of Germany."

He claimed that many weapons "are arriving from Ukraine to Belarus" to overthrow his government. That's why, he said, he ordered his "border-security forces to close the Belarussian border with Ukraine fully."

Lukashenko spoke at a ceremony marking the country's 30 years of independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said he would confront Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders about the claims.

Ukraine has already denied interfering in Belarus's domestic affairs. It said closing the 1,084-kilometer or 674-mile border would make innocent people "suffer."

Rising tensions

The move comes amid rising tensions between Belarus and the West. In May, President Lukashenko sparked international outrage when his government forced a Ryanair passenger flight to land in Minsk.  

The authorities detained a critical journalist and his girlfriend, who were on board. In turn, Western countries imposed sanctions on Belarus, including travel bans and asset freezes on scores of Belarus officials and several entities.

Minsk already faced sanctions over a previous crackdown on protest sparked by Lukashenko's re-election. Critics say Lukashenko won his sixth presidential term last August in a fraudulent vote.

Belarusian authorities responded with a crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.

Most opposition leaders have been jailed or forced to leave Belarus, a former Soviet nation.

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03 July 2021, 16:49