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Belarus opposition rubbishes strongman's US coup plot claim

The Belarusian opposition on Sunday rubbished claims by strongman Alexander Lukashenko that his security services had thwarted an alleged US plot to assassinate him and kidnap his children.

On Saturday, the 66-year-old authoritarian leader said Russian authorities helped derail a plot to overthrow the Belarusian government and arrested two Belarusian nationals in Moscow.

In a separate statement, Russia's FSB security service said that it detained two Belarussians who planned to stage a "military coup" in Belarus and "kill" the Belarusian leader.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, thanked Russian leader Vladimir Putin for his help, claiming that the Kremlin chief had discussed the affair with US President Joe Biden earlier this week.

"Information released by state institutions and announced by Lukashenko on April 17 has all hallmarks of a provocation by the security services of Russia and Belarus," said a statement by Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's office.

"It is necessary to refrain from hasty conclusions and decisions which can damage Belarus's national interests, sovereignty and independence."

The ex-Soviet nation has been gripped by historic protests after Lukashenko claimed victory in last year's elections over Tikhanovskaya, a popular opposition candidate.

Belurasian law enforcement unleashed a tough crackdown which has seen thousands of demonstrators detained and several people killed in the unrest. Tikhanovskaya, 38, sought refuge in EU member Lithuania and the protests eventually subsided.

Speaking on Saturday, Lukashenko claimed that senior US politicians were involved in the alleged plot to overthrow him.

"No one except the top political leadership can assign the task of eliminating a president," he said in remarks released by his office.

He said he would "wipe out" those who wished him and his family ill and added that he planned to unveil what he called one of the most important decision of his presidency.

"It will be very serious," he said. "I've made a decision. Now I have to formalise it," he said without providing further details.

Critics and observers warned that Lukashenko planned to further ramp up repression against Belarusian society.

"This will end in a further tightening of the screws," said political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky.

Topics: Alexander Lukashenko , Belarus , Alexander Klaskovsky , Moscow
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