The Belarusian authorities are trying to shift the focus from domestic to external issues by using NATO as a kind of excuse for persecuting peaceful protesters and political opposition in Belarus, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday ahead of the informal meeting with EU Defence Ministers in Berlin.
„There is no military NATO build up in the region. So any attempt by the regime built in Belarus, to use NATO as an excuse or as a pretext to crack down on the demonstrators in their own country is absolutely wrong, is absolutely unjustified,” he said.
According to him, NATO has major concerns about the situation in Belarus and calls on ‘the regime and the President’ to respect fundamental values, fundamental rights, including the freedom of speech, including the right for peaceful demonstrations.
“In NATO, we are following these developments very closely. They evolve at our borders. And it’s absolutely clear from all NATO allies that the people in Belarus, they have the right to decide their own future without interference from abroad, interference from Russia. And, of course, have the right to have free and fair elections,” Stoltenberg stressed.
On August 17, NATO Secretary General refuted Alyaksandr Lukashenka‘s allegations that NATO was deploying its forces not far from to the Belarusian border.
Earlier, the Belarusian leader gave the presence of NATO forces in Poland and Lithuania as a reason for the transfer of an airborne brigade to Hrodna region. It should be noted that the city of Hrodna turned out to be one of post-election protest centres: striking workers and demonstrators even managed to obtain concessions local authorities. However, the incumbent president believes that there are ‘Western masterminds’ behind the protest movement.
“I am a realist. They won’t give us a quiet life. Even if they calm down now, they’ll crawl out of their holes like rats after a while. They’re already run by strangers. They see the western borders of Belarus here near Minsk, like in 1939. It’s not going to happen. We’ll all become the Brest Fortress, but we won’t give up the country,” Lukashenka said on August, 16.
The Belarusian leader also considers Poland a threat. In one of his recent speeches, he stated that ‘Polish flags were being waved in Hrodna’, but failed to provide any proof of it.