Lithuanian lawmakers vote for sanctions against Belarus

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People shout a slogan “release (from prison)” to show their solidarity with the detainees and people release balloons in colors of old Belarusian national flag into the sky at a detention center during opposition rally in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. After the police crackdown at least 7,000 were detained by riot police, with many complaining they were beaten mercilessly. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted for economic sanctions against the regime in neighboring Belarus, saying the presidential election there mustn’t be internationally recognized.

“We are sending a strong message to the world today,” Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said after the 120-0 vote with two abstentions. Nineteen of the Seimas assembly’s 141 members were absent.

The document adopted by lawmakers also calls for the international rejection of the legitimacy of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Further details on the economic sanctions weren’t immediately available.

Lukashenko won his sixth term in office with 80% of the votes, according to official results of the Aug. 9 election. The opposition denounced the vote as riggedand hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets across Belarus in protest.

Linkevicius added that many shocking stories of beatings and torture start to emerge from Belarus.

“What happened there is not just a human rights abuse, but also crimes that must be investigated and those responsible punished,” Linkevicius said.

Lukashenko’s top challenger, former English teacher Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, got only 10% of the vote, according to official results. But she denounced the vote as rigged, and demanded a recount. Lithuania, which is Belarus’s northern neighbor, has given her refuge.

Lithuania has a population of 2.8 million and the Baltic nation’s capital, Vilnius, is located 170 kilometers (105 miles) from Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

Vilnius is a center for Belarusians in exile. The city hosts a university that Lukashenko banned. A number of Belarusian nongovernmental organizations have relocated there as well.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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