Medvedev slams Belarusian leader in run-up to presidential poll

Moscow - The Kremlin stepped up its criticism of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday, shortly after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused the autocratic leader of creating ill-will between the two nations.

The comments came in the wake of statements by Lukashenko that the Russian leadership wants to overthrow him.

A spokeswoman for Medvedev, Natalia Timakova, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency on Monday that the rapport with the Belarusian leader has reached a dead end.

'Apparently relations cannot return to the way they were before,' she said, adding that it was unacceptable for Lukashenko to try winning a new term in December 19 elections by using an 'anti-Russian theme.'

A day earlier, Medvedev had fuelled speculation about Moscow wanting to end Lukashenko's 16-year rule when he released a video message highly critical of the Belarusian leader.

'President Lukashenko is going not only far beyond what is diplomatically permissible, but also beyond human decency,' he said.

Russian state television has also been broadcasting unusually derogatory reports about Lukashenko for weeks, with one programme calling him a psychopath.

Presidential elections in Belarus have traditionally been considered to be fraudulent. But experts predict that Lukashenko - whom human rights activists call Europe's last dictator - will not be able to hold on to power if Russia for the first time does not recognise his election.

Medvedev had said during a recent state visit to China that he expects 'nothing good' from the election in neighbouring Belarus - a statement he said he made 'in jest.'

The Russian leader also bemoaned on his blog the fact that government critics in Belarus have been killed or gone missing.


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