INTERNATIONAL

EU rejects Belarus poll result, warns sanctions are imminent

The European Union on Wednesday rejected the result of the disputed Belarus election, saying President Alexander Lukashenko’s victory was neither free nor fair, and warned fresh sanctions against his government were imminent.

After an emergency video summit, EU Council President Charles Michel told the people of Belarus the bloc stood “by your side” as unprecedented protests against strongman Mr. Lukashenko entered an 11th day.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for national dialogue in Belarus — including Mr. Lukashenko, who has ruled for 26 years — to find a peaceful way out of the crisis.

The EU has been working on a new round of sanctions against Belarus, targeting those involved in allegedly fixing the August 9 vote and in the bloody repression of protests, which have shaken Mr. Lukashenko’s grip on the ex-Soviet republic as never before.

Mr. Michel said this would lead “shortly” to “a substantial number of individuals responsible for violence, repression and election fraud” being hit with EU travel bans and asset freezes.

“These elections were neither free nor fair and did not meet international standards. We don’t recognise the results presented by the Belarus authorities,” Mr. Michel told reporters.

“The people of Belarus deserve better. They deserve the democratic right to choose their leaders and shape the future.”

Mr. Michel, along with Ms. Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, all held telephone talks with Mr. Lukashenko’s close ally Russia to push for dialogue to end the crisis peacefully.