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French president says longtime Belarus leader ‘must go’

International

Riot police detain a protester during an opposition rally to protest the presidential inauguration in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in to his sixth term in office at an inaugural ceremony that was not announced in advance amid weeks of huge protests saying the authoritarian leader’s reelection was rigged. Hundreds took to the streets in several cities in the evening to protest the inauguration. (AP Photo/TUT.by)

PARIS (AP) — France is stepping up the pressure on Belarus’ longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko, with President Emmanuel Macron telling a prominent French weekly that “Lukashenko must go.”

The European Union said Thursday it does not recognize Lukashenko as president of Belarus because of large-scale protests by Belarusians who question the results of last month’s presidential election that Lukashenko claims he overwhelmingly won. Opposition members and some poll workers in Belarus say the vote was rigged.

Ahead of a trip Monday to Lithuania and Latvia, Macron was quoted in Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper as saying “it’s clear that Lukashenko must go.”

“What’s happening in Belarus is a crisis of power, an authoritarian power that can’t manage to accept the logic of democracy and is clinging on by force,” the newspaper quotes Macron as saying.

In a speech Saturday to the virtual U.N. General Assembly, Belarus’ foreign minister warned Western nations against interfering or imposing sanctions over the country’s disputed presidential election and the government’s violent crackdown on protesters.

Thousands of Belarusian citizens have taken part in huge rallies since the Aug. 9 election, which they say was rigged in favor of Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years and just took a secretive oath of office for a new term.

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Follow all AP stories on developments in Belarus at https://apnews.com/Belarus.

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