Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has accused Russia of lying about a “mercenary” team arrested in Belarus last week and suggests an additional such group has infiltrated his country.
“Currently we heard of another device despatched into the south,” he reported in an address to the nation. “We’ll capture them all.”
Russia has denied that the 33 Russians held have been plotting terrorism and ended up joined to anti-Lukashenko activists.
Anti-Lukashenko protests have grown, as he seeks re-election on 9 August.
Russia has reported the 33 – claimed to be members of the shadowy Wagner mercenary group – were being only transiting by means of Belarus en route to Istanbul. And Russia insists they had no mission to interfere in the Belarus presidential election.
“All this about Istanbul, Venezuela, Africa and Libya – it’s a lie. These men and women – they have by now specified testimony – had been sent into Belarus on goal. The get was to wait around,” Mr Lukashenko said, in his televised annual deal with.
He said the Russians could have flown straight to an overseas destination – there was no will need for them to enter Belarus to do so.
“So considerably there is no open warfare, no taking pictures, the cause has not yet been pulled, but an endeavor to organise a massacre in the centre of Minsk is by now clear,” he alleged.
Russia has urged Belarus to launch the adult males, who have been named by Belarusian officials, while the Wagner link has not been independently verified.
The Wagner group is reported to have played a substantial function in eastern Ukraine, encouraging the professional-Russian rebels there, as very well as in Syria, Libya and some other conflict zones.
The Belarusian authorities have been cracking down on opposition figures and tranquil protests in the run-up to Sunday’s poll.
Early voting began on Tuesday. Western governments and human rights groups have extensive complained that Mr Lukashenko harasses opponents, controls the media and marginalises independent voices.
The main rival of Mr Lukashenko is now political newbie Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who stepped into the race soon after her spouse Sergei Tikhanovsky, a preferred YouTube blogger, was barred from standing and jailed.
The authorities allege that the arrested Russians ended up collaborating with Mr Tikhanovsky his wife dismissed that “extremely scary” claim. Their 5-calendar year-previous daughter and 10-12 months-outdated son have been taken overseas for their possess protection.
Mr Lukashenko, in power due to the fact 1994, has been criticised above his managing of the economy and the coronavirus pandemic. He has urged Belarusians to have on as standard, scorning the lockdowns imposed by the relaxation of Europe to control the virus.