As the political instability in Belarus continues to worsen, China is the only major power that supports its long-time president, Alexander Lukashenko.
Accused by the European Union and the United States of rigging the August 9 election, which saw him win a sixth term, Lukashenko said Russia tried to destabilise his country ahead of the poll, amid Minsk’s strained ties with its traditional ally in the Kremlin.
On Friday, all 27 EU foreign ministers prepared a list of Belarusian officials to be sanctioned, in response to days of brutal crackdowns on protesters, at least two of whom were killed and 6,000 arrested – in the wake of Lukashenko’s election victory, which they described as “neither free nor fair”.
The EU also “considers the results to have been falsified and therefore does not accept the results of the election,” they said in a press release.
In a telephone call to Lukashenko on Monday, Xi offered congratulations “on behalf of the Chinese government, the Chinese people, and in my own name”, Xinhua reported.
Xi said he was ready to work with Lukashenko to “jointly push forward China-Belarus comprehensive strategic partnership and expand mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries in various fields”.
On the other hand, Belarus’ relationship with Russia is tense. Days before the election, 33 Russians were arrested in Belarus on a charge of planning to orchestrate “mass riots” there.
According to Minsk, the suspects were from the private paramilitary company Wagner, a group long accused of being close to the Kremlin and of deploying its mercenaries in foreign countries.
When Lukashenko announced his victory, Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate him, and the 33 Russians were released.
Lukashenko, 65, has ruled Belarus since 1994 but faces increasing anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a sluggish economy and human rights.
State-approved exit polls showed him winning almost 80 per cent of the vote while his main opponent Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who emerged from obscurity a few weeks ago to lead rallies against him, won less than 7 per cent.