Belarus shuts down OSCE office in Minsk

Belarusian authorities have discontinued the mandate of the OSCE office in the country's capital Minsk after Europe's top rights watchdog lambasted December's presidential elections, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry reported on Friday.

"This was a well thought-out decision conditioned by a lack of objective grounds to retain the OSCE mission in Belarus," ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh said.

Belarus' iron-fisted leader since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States "Europe's last dictator," won a landslide victory and a fourth term on December 19 as the opposition cried foul over what it called vote rigging.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe blasted the election saying it was disappointed with the vote count.

One official monitor from the OSCE said December 22 that the election was marred by mass violations of electoral procedures, with more than 800 serious fraud cases registered by international observers.

"The elections were neither free nor fair, we saw a lot of violations, ballot box stuffing, group voting, a non-transparent process of giving over the protocols from precinct election commissions (PECs) to territorial election commissions (TECs), and we were not able to see how the protocols went from PECs to the Central Election Commission," Maciej Duszynski, from Poland, told RIA Novosti.

The Belarusian opposition took thousands to the streets following the election in protest against the results of the polls. Riot police brutally dispersed the demonstration in Minsk after a crowd tried to storm parliament. Many people, including several presidential candidates, were injured in clashes with police, and at least 600 people were detained.

Many western governments, including the U.S. administration, have condemned the electoral violence, including the attacks on presidential candidates and violence against journalists and civil society activists.

MINSK, December 31 (RIA Novosti)


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