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Italy against geopolitical rivalry with Russia over Belarus

The Italian foreign minister pointed out that in response to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s "undemocratic actions," the European Union would be using all the instruments, including sanctions, to step up pressure on Belarusian authorities

MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. Italy opposes stoking up a geopolitical rivalry with Russia over Belarus as the Belarusians should determine their future, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said at a news conference on Wednesday after his talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

"We do not want to launch any geopolitical rivalry with Russia. The people of Belarus are to choose their future themselves. We count on Russia’s constructive role in resolution of the crisis," he said. "We are aware of the profound bonds between Moscow and Minsk."

The Italian foreign minister pointed out that in response to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s "undemocratic actions," the European Union would be using all the instruments, including sanctions, to step up pressure on Belarusian authorities.

On Monday, foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states agreed to work out a new set of sanctions against Belarusian officials. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that the foreign ministers reconfirmed that Lukashenko "lacks any democratic legitimacy" and gave green light to drafting a sanctions list, which will include Lukashenko.

Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following the August 9 presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10% of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12% of the ballot. However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania. After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities.

During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police. The current unrest is being cheered on by the opposition’s Coordination Council, which has been beating the drum for more protests. In response, the Belarusian authorities have castigated the ongoing turmoil and demanded that these unauthorized demonstrations be stopped.