A defiant President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday a Belarusian sprinter defected at the Olympic Games only because she had been "manipulated" by outside forces and shrugged off a coordinated barrage of new Western sanctions.
During an hours-long press conference, Monday, a defiant President Alexander Lukashenko shrugged off a coordinated barrage of new Western sanctions and said a Belarusian sprinter defected at the Olympic Games only because she had been "manipulated" by outside forces.
”She wouldn't do it herself, she was manipulated.
It was from Japan, from Tokyo, that she contacted her buddies in Poland and they told her - literally - when you come to the airport, run to a Japanese police officer and shout that those who dropped her off at the airport are KGB agents.
There was not a single special service agent in Japan.
We don't do such things." Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya fled to Warsaw last week following a dispute with her coaches in which she said an order came from "high up" to send her home from Tokyo.
Lukashenko spoke to reporters, at length, on the anniversary of an election which opponents said was rigged.
Lukashenko denied being a dictator and said he had defended Belarus against opponents plotting a coup.
As he spoke - the United States, Britain and Canada announced coordinated sanctions targeting the Belarusian economy and its financial sector… citing violations of human rights and election fraud.
Lukashenko responded by saying Britain would "choke" on its measures… and said he was ready for talks with the West instead of a sanctions war.
"Listen you would start a Third World War.
Is that something you are pushing us and the Russians?
Do you want to win in this war?
There will be no winners.
If there are ones, it will not be you.
So, calm down.” Tens of thousands of people joined street protests against Lukashenko in 2020 - his biggest challenge since first taking power in 1994.
He responded with a crackdown in which many opponents have been arrested or gone into exile.
Lukashenko on Monday also denied involvement in the recent death of Vitaly Shishov, who led a Kyiv-based organization that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution.