A political opponent of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko urged European Union leaders Wednesday not to recognize the country’s recent presidential election, declaring it was rigged in favor of Lukashenko.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya issued the appeal from exile in neighboring Lithuania before European Union leaders hold an emergency summit to discuss the Belarus crisis.
“I call on you not to recognize these fraudulent elections,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “Mr. Lukashenko has lost all legitimacy in the eyes of our nation and the world.”
Tsikhanouskaya says she is the winner of the election and has called for new elections under international supervision.
Workers in Belarus began striking in recent days as part of a campaign to oust the authoritarian president after he extended his 26-year term in an election detractors contend was rigged. Lukashenko denies manipulating the election.
Unrest in the country began to escalate after Lukashenko dismissed demands to resign following a severe police crackdown on peaceful protesters days after the August 9 election.
EU members have suggested they would place sanctions on Belarusian officials they consider responsible for election fraud and a crackdown on protests that resulted in the deaths of at least two people, the injuring of hundreds of others and the detention of nearly 7,000 people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered military assistance to Lukashenko, a close ally. Putin spoke by phone Tuesday with European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Putin warned Merkel and Macron not to interfere in Belarusian affairs.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde has offered to visit Belarus as the incoming head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which frequently mediates disputes on the continent. Western nations and former states of the Soviet Union are members of the OSCE.