By Zahra Ullah, Jennifer Hansler and Hannah Ritchie, CNN
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko denied Monday that state repression exists in Belarus, while answering questions from local and foreign media. He also invited members of the public to ask questions during the press conference in Minsk.
“Using repressions in Belarus would be akin to shooting oneself,” Lukashenko said, as he faced questions about the violent crackdown on protesters following last year’s disputed presidential election.
In response to a question on repression and the imprisonment of political opponents, Lukashenko accused the US of “lawlessness,” citing the January 6 insurrection and invoking false claims about the US presidential election result.
His comments came on the same day that US President Joe Biden issued an executive order designed to financially target members of Lukashenko’s regime involved in the crackdown.
“Are you creating lawlessness in many parts of the world and talking to me about repression?” Lukashenko said.
“There was no repression on my part, no,” he continued.
Lukashenko also commented on recent CNN report concerning a possible prison camp for Belarusian political dissidents located an hour’s drive from Minsk. Lukashenko sarcastically told his press secretary to take CNN back to the camp for another look.
“A question from the CNN company, which recently discovered concentration camps in our country. Natalya Nikolaevna, take her to this camp of political prisoners and show her what they showed…Take Yura Voskresensky, he’s from the opposition, and you can see everything on your own, you can see this camp for political prisoners yourself,” Lukashenko said, referring to an opposition figure-turned-ally.
Following the publication of CNN’s report last week, Belarusian state TV channel, ONT, broadcast video and drone footage on Friday from what appeared to be the same location.
The ONT broadcast said the facility was an armaments depot for the Belarusian military’s air defense department and featured an officer and another individual on camera detailing its contents, while claiming locals were aware of the facility’s purpose. The report also showed the interior of what it said were the same buildings, which contained military equipment.
Lukashenko’s press conference took place on the same day that the White House issued an executive order targeting those in the Belarusian regime suspected of involvement in the repression of human rights and democracy in the former Soviet state.
It was released on the one-year anniversary of Belarus’ election, which was declared fraudulent by the United States and sparked widespread protests throughout the country.
“One year ago today, the people of Belarus sought to make their voices heard and shape their own future through that most basic expression of democracy—an election,” Biden said in a statement Monday.
“Rather than respect the clear will of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenka regime perpetrated election fraud, followed by a brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent.”
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