Canada 'deeply concerned' by crackdown in Belarus, says Champagne

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada is "deeply concerned" by a violent crackdown following presidential elections in Belarus.

Dozens of people have been injured and thousands detained in the country since Sunday's vote, with police brutally breaking up mostly young protesters.

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The protests came as Belarusian election officials said authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko had won a sixth term in office with 80 per cent of the vote.

Election officials say opposition challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya received 10 per cent of the vote, but she has dismissed the official results as a sham and requested a formal recount.

The police crackdown drew harsh criticism from European capitals and will likely complicate Lukashenko's efforts to mend ties with the West amid tensions with his main ally and sponsor, Russia.

Champagne said the police response "further eroded the democratic legitimacy of the vote," and he called for the results to reflect what Belarusians want for their country.

"The people of Belarus have demonstrated their desire for democracy through their unprecedented mobilization over the past few weeks," Champagne said in the statement.

"Free, fair and inclusive elections are critical to any functioning democracy," he added, saying Canada had already expressed its concern ahead of the election over the arrests of opposition candidates, prominent bloggers and activists who took part in peaceful protests.

"We call on the government of Belarus to exercise restraint and uphold respect for human rights," Champagne said.

"Canada remains committed to the people of Belarus. We will continue to closely follow developments and call for the results of Sunday's election to reflect the will of the people."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

— With files from The Associated Press

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