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Belarus elections deemed unfair by US, Germany and others; candidate missing

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Several countries, including the United States, on Monday criticized the presidential elections in Belarus, saying they were unfair.

“The United States is deeply concerned about the conduct of the August 9 presidential election in Belarus, which was not free and fair,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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Pompeo cited restrictions on ballot access for candidates, the prohibition of local independent observers and detention of peaceful protesters and journalists.

Belarusian police fired tear gas at protesters in Minsk on Monday after the opposition accused President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election victory, a Reuters witness said.

Police also fired stun grenades as thousands of people took to the streets of the capital.

There was also concern over the whereabouts of Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity to become Lukashenko’s main electoral opponent a few weeks ago.

Lithuania’s foreign minister tweeted that he had not heard from Tikhanouskaya for several hours.

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 Moscow’s orbit.

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

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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 country’s independence.

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 opposition said they were ready to hold talks with the authorities.

- With Reuters