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Belarus hits back at EU and announces vote on a new constitution in 2022

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By AP
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during an expanded meeting of the Constitutional Commission in Minsk.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during an expanded meeting of the Constitutional Commission in Minsk.   -   Copyright  Maxim Guchek/BelTA photo via AP

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has announced that the country will hold a referendum on a new constitution in February.

Lukashenko said the new structure would redistribute powers between the main branches of the government and establish a new governing body — the All-Belarus People’s Assembly.

But critics say the move could further cement his grip on power after months of mass opposition protests.

Lukashenko has previously said that he would step down as president once the new constitution is adopted, but in recent months he has stopped mentioning such a possibility.

Speaking in Minsk, the Belarusian President once again vowed not to let the opposition come to power, claiming they would “destroy the country.”

Belarus was rocked by months of demonstrations following Lukashenko’s disputed re-election for a sixth term in August 2020.

More than 35,000 people were arrested in a subsequent crackdown on opposition rallies, with thousands beaten by police and others forced to seek refuge abroad.

The Belarus opposition and international organisations have proposed mediated talks between the government and the opposition, but Minsk has rejected the proposals.

At the United Nations General Assembly, Belarus' foreign minister has accused Western nations of carrying out “a large-scale hybrid war” against Minsk.

Vladimir Makei insisted that the presidential elections were won by Lukahsneko and claimed that foreign states had failed to change the government.

"Belarus did not manage to act out the highly polished script of yet another color revolution to coincide with the presidential elections," he said on Monday.

"The West has not been able to accept the choice of the majority of Belarussians because this choice of the Belarusian electorate spoiled the plans of some strategists."

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Belarus following the crackdown and the diversion of a passenger jet to Minsk to arrest a dissident journalist.

Makei said the sanctions violated international law and increased "the potential for conflict and enmity".

Meanwhile, the EU has also accused Belarusian authorities of organising a flow of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to their countries in retaliation against the sanctions in recent months.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Lukashenko "is not a partner we are ready to cooperate with."

"He’s acting in ... desperation, importing people for the only purpose to send them or actually push them into the European Union. And of course, we can’t accept that."

But speaking on the matter, Makei said the West had "fabricated a conflict with the refugees on the western border of Belarus” in order to "further demonise" the country.

The Belarusian foreign minister blamed Brussels' "irresponsible" policies and actions in Afghanistan for the influx of migrants trying to reach Europe.