Russia finally congratulates Belarus' Lukashenko

25th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday congratulated his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on his election to a fourth term, a week after polls lambasted by Western observers.

Some EU foreign ministers have said engaging with Lukashenko is now a waste of time after the contested polls and a harsh crackdown on the opposition that has seen hundreds arrested following protests on election night.

In a dry statement quoted by Russian news agencies, Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said the Kremlin chief has sent a letter to formally congratulate Lukashenko on his election victory.

"This letter was dispatched, taking into account the official publication of the results by the Belarus election commission and the report by Russian election commission chief Vladimir Churov about the conclusions of observers," Timakova said.

No further details were given and the contents of the letter were not disclosed.

Belarus' central election commission on Friday announced official election results, giving Lukashenko victory with 79.6 percent with his nearest challenger on a meagre 2.4 percent.

Medvedev earlier this week described the elections as an "internal affair" for Belarus, amid mounting Western outrage over the beating and arrest of protestors by the security forces on the night of December 19.

The hundreds arrested include five of the nine candidates who challenged Lukashenko and a large proportion of the country's leading opposition political and media figures.

They were protesting against an election OSCE observers said was still "a considerable way" from democratic standards and marred by multiple violations in the counting process.

© 2010 AFP

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