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Fresh protests over presidential election leave one dead in Belarus

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At least one person died as Belarusian police clashed with protesters on Monday after the opposition accused President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election victory amid a chorus of criticism from Western leaders.

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Police fired tear gas and stun grenades and used batons to disperse thousands of people in Minsk in a second night of violence. Protesters set up barricades in several parts of the capital.

One man died while trying to throw an unidentified explosive device at police that blew up in his hands, the government said. Local media reported clashes breaking out in other towns.

In power for more than a quarter of a century, Lukashenko claimed a landslide win against Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity to lead the biggest challenge to his rule in years.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the vote was “not free and fair” and condemned “ongoing violence against protesters and the detention of opposition supporters.”

Foreign observers have not judged an election to be free and fair in Belarus since 1995, and the run-up to the vote saw authorities jail Lukashenkos rivals and open criminal investigations of others who voiced opposition.

Events are being closely watched by Russia, whose oil exports run through Belarus to the West and which has long regarded the country as a buffer zone against NATO, and by the West, which has tried to lure Minsk from Moscows orbit.

Germany called for the European Union to discuss sanctions on Belarus that were lifted in 2016 to foster better relations.

France on Monday urged “the greatest restraint” in Belarus after the security forces cracked down on protesters.

“We watch with concern the violence against Belarusian citizens who demonstrated after the closing of polling stations and call for the greatest restraint,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used a congratulatory telegram to nudge Lukashenko to accept deeper ties between the two nations, which the Belarusian leader has previously rejected as an assault on his countrys independence.

Riot police used force on Sunday night to disperse thousands of protesters who had gathered to denounce what they said was an electoral farce.

Tikhanouskaya, whose campaign rallies drew some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, told reporters she considered herself the election winner.

“The authorities are not listening to us. The authorities need to think about peaceful ways to hand over power,” said Tikhanouskaya, who entered the race after her blogger husband was jailed. “Of course we do not recognise the results.”

No revolution

The opposition said it was ready to hold talks with the authorities. There was no immediate response to that offer from Lukashenko, a former Soviet cRead More – Source