We beat foreign 'blitzkrieg' - Lukashenko | Daily News

We beat foreign 'blitzkrieg' - Lukashenko

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech at the All-Belarusian People's Assembly in Minsk on Thursday. - AFP
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech at the All-Belarusian People's Assembly in Minsk on Thursday. - AFP

BELARUS: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday his country had defeated foreign attempts to overthrow his government and showed no signs of heeding the embattled opposition's calls for him to resign.

In a defiant address to loyalists, Europe's longest serving leader pushed back a timeline to introduce constitutional reforms that he had promised in the wake of mass protests against his decades-long rule that erupted last summer.

During the wave of demonstrations Lukashenko, 66, claimed the protesters had been incited by foreign governments to orchestrate his ouster, but on Thursday he said Belarus had successfully fended off the attacks.

"The blitzkrieg did not succeed. We held on to our country," Lukashenko said, using language especially resonant in a country that suffered huge losses at the hands of Nazi forces in World War II.

"Despite the tensions in society artificially created by external forces, we survived," Lukashenko told hundreds of delegates on the first day of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly. "We have to resist at all costs. And 2021, this year, will be decisive."

Belarus's opposition, whose leaders including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova have either been jailed or forced into exile in neighbouring EU countries, dismissed the assembly as a piece of political theatre.

The protests that broke out in August were the most serious threat to Lukashenko's rule since coming to power in the ex-Soviet country in 1994.

Tens of thousands took the streets across the country to demand his resignation after he claimed to have won a sixth Presidential term in an August vote opponents said were rigged.

The authorities unleashed a violent crackdown on protesters, detaining thousands, many of whom reported torture and abuse in custody. Several people died in the unrest.

Lukashenko in November promised to change the Constitution to calm the protests, just weeks after he was shown during a demonstration brandishing a Kalashnikov assault rifle and referring to protesters as "rats."

Lukashenko reiterated Thursday authorities would draft a new constitution this year and put the changes to a popular vote in the beginning of 2021. - AFP