EU Blasts Belarus Elections, As Government Orders Security Forces To Quash Protests The European Union says the Aug. 9 polls in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed an overwhelming victory were "neither free nor fair and do not meet international standards."

EU Blasts Belarus Elections, As Government Orders Security Forces To Quash Protests

Protesters gather in front of the Minsk Tractor Works Plant to support workers leaving the plant after their work shift in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday. Dmitri Lovetsky/AP hide caption

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Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

Protesters gather in front of the Minsk Tractor Works Plant to support workers leaving the plant after their work shift in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday.

Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

The European Union on Wednesday said it does not recognize the results of Belarus' Aug. 9 presidential election, calling the poll fraudulent and promising to sanction individuals responsible for the violence that has followed.

Soon after the announcement, which followed an emergency summit of EU leaders via teleconference on Belarus, the embattled authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, announced what appeared to be a renewed crackdown on protests on the streets of the capital calling for his ouster.

"These elections were neither free nor fair and did not meet international standards," Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said at the end of an emergency summit on Belarus held by teleconference.

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"The EU will impose shortly sanctions on a substantial number of individuals responsible for violence, repression and election fraud," he said.

"The protests in Belarus are not about geopolitics," he said. "This is in the first place a national crisis. This is about the right of the people to freely elect their leadership."

"We stand firmly behind the right of the Belarusian people to determine their own fate," he added.

The vote in Belarus earlier this month, in which Lukashenko, who has held tightly to power for 26 years, claimed an overwhelming victory amid accusations of massive election fraud, has sparked nationwide protests and a brutal crackdown by security forces.

Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians in the capital and across the country have taken part and the protests continue to grow with workers at giant state-owned factories walking off their jobs to join the demonstrations.

"The people of Belarus want change and they want it now," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a news conference following the emergency summit.

Lukashenko's main opponent in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced to flee the country after the results were announced. She initially conceded defeat from exile but has since since called for international mediation to resolve the political standoff.

However, following the EU summit on Wednesday, Lukashenko appeared to double-down on quashing the unrest by force.

"There should no longer be any disorder in Minsk of any kind," he said in remarks carried by state news agency Belta. "People are tired. People demand peace and quiet."

By early Wednesday evening, as hundreds of protesters gathered near the Interior Ministry headquarters, police officers were stationed nearby but took no action.

Protesters chanted "Resign!" and "Let them out!" — a reference to those who remain in police custody.

In its response to the Belarus crisis, the EU is eager to avoid a repeat of what happened in Ukraine in 2014, when ousting a pro-Kremlin leader led to Russian military intervention.

In recent days, Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered unspecified "security assistance" to Lukashenko's government, even as his security forces were denounced at home and abroad for violently quashing peaceful protests.

Russia on Wednesday called the external pressure from EU countries "unacceptable."

"We consider that Belarusians will iron out their own problems in the framework of dialogue, within the legal framework and without any foreign meddling," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

Speaking in Berlin after the meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency, echoed her fellow EU leaders' remarks, saying that there is "no doubt" of "massive rule violations" in the Belarus election.

"For us, it is clear that Belarus must find its own path, that must happen via dialog in the country and there must be no intervention from outside," Merkel said.

Lukashenko also announced on Tuesday that Belarusian forces were being deployed on the western borders in response to criticism from Belarus' NATO-member neighbors there — Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Following Wednesday's EU meeting, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was not concerned by troop movements.

"As part of normal, routine actions we are looking at what is happening behind our border and at the moment there are no reasons for concern," Morawiecki said at a news conference.

Later, the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted that the Belarusians "are showing their voices will not be silenced by terror or torture," adding that the U.S. "should support" Tikhanovskaya's "call for fair elections."

"Russia must be told not to interfere—this is not about geopolitics but the right to choose one's leaders," Biden said.