Belarus diplomat: ‘I'm ashamed of what's happening in Minsk’

Belarusians chanting "Step down!" filled the centre of the capital Minsk on Sunday. The protest attracted around 200,000 people, according to estimates. Keystone / Tatyana Zenkovich

Pawel Mazukewitsch, a Belarus diplomat who was recently based in Switzerland, says he sympathises with protestors contesting leader Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election.

This content was published on August 17, 2020 - 13:06

“I'm ashamed of what's happening in Minsk right now,” the Belarus diplomat told Swiss public television, SRF, on SundayExternal link.

He recently published a critical post on Facebook that ended with the phrase: “Lukashenko has to go!”

Mazukewitsch worked as deputy ambassador in the Swiss capital Bern until the end of June. He was due to begin work at the Belarus foreign ministry in Minsk on August 17.

Pawel Mazukewitsch, a Belarus diplomat SRF-SWI

“The situation is not acceptable to me. I see many dangers - geopolitical or economic. And the head of state has clearly shown that he will retain his power by all means,” he told SRF.

Facing growing protests that have posed the biggest challenge to his 26 years in power, Lukashenko said on Monday he was ready to share power in Belarus, although not under pressure from the streets. His apparent concession came after exiled opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she was willing to lead the country.

“An election took place, the result of which the majority of the population obviously did not accept. That should have been a signal for the state authorities to step down from office. But that doesn't happen. What is more, the state is threatening to seek help from another country. In my opinion, this is a direct threat to our sovereignty,” said Mazukewitsch.

Belarusian musicians perform during a rally in support of the opposition to demonstrate against police brutality and the presidential election results, in Minsk, Belarus, on August 16, 2020. Keystone / Tatyana Zenkovich

“Rigged election”

Opponents of Lukashenko say he rigged a presidential election on August 9 to secure a sixth term in power. He denies losing, citing official results that gave him just over 80% of the vote.

“We have always been proud that Belarus was a peaceful, conflict-free country, where internal political conflicts are also peacefully resolved,” said Mazukewitsch.

“In the days after the elections, however, it became clear that the result at the ballot box did not correspond to what was announced. We have taken steps towards democracy and reforms in recent years - and we are now losing all of that just because the head of state does not want to accept the decision of his people,” he declared.

The diplomat stressed that in recent years Belarus had improved relations with Switzerland and with other western countries.

“But now there is a risk that we will fall like a mountain climber into a ravine,” he warned.

European Council President Charles Michel on Monday convened an emergency summit of EU leaders to discuss the presidential election in Belarus and the crackdown in the wake of the polls. Meanwhile, Russia said on Sunday it had told the Belarusian leader it was ready to offer military assistance if necessary.

Shortly before the opposition protest in the Belarus capital on Sunday, there was tight security as Lukashenko's supporters gathered in central Minsk for the first time since the election to watch him give a fiery speech.

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