In remarks repeated by the official Belta news agency, incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko said: “There should no longer be any disorder in Minsk of any kind, People are tired. People demand peace and quiet.”

His statement came at the same time that European Union leaders were holding an emergency meeting on the crisis in Belarus, which follows the disputed result of a presidential election on August 9. Lukashenko, whose popularity has been plunging after 26 years in office, had claimed a highly improbable 80 percent of the popular vote.

In a move typical of cornered despots, he ordered that the border be tightened to block an influx “of fighters and arms.”

Meanwhile, the opposition candidate who almost certainly garnered a majority of votes, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, speaking from exile in neighbouring Lithuania, called on the EU not to recognise the result of the flawed election.

FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko takes part in the celebrations of Independence Day in Minsk, Belarus July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko