U.S. Says Belarus Vote Not Free, Takes No Stance on Sanctions

The presidential election in Belarus wasn’t free and fair, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in Warsaw on Saturday, without clarifying the U.S. stance on potential sanctions on Minsk.

TheEuropean Union Fridaysignaled it’s ready to impose sanctions on Belarus over the regime’s violent crackdown of protesters after last Sunday’s vote, which the bloc said was fraudulent. The bloc will start drawing up a list of officials linked to President Alexander Lukashenko who could be sanctioned.

While criticizing the use of violence during post-election protests in Poland’s eastern neighbor, Pompeo dodged the question on potential sanctions on Belarus or a need to repeat the ballot.

“We spent these last days on talks with our partners to understand what’s going on,” Pompeo told the briefing after meeting Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz. “The common objective is to try to help as best we can the Belarusian people achieve sovereignty and freedom.”

Poland believes that a new, fair ballot should be held in Belarus, but key issues of who should organize the vote and how to manage the situation in the interim need to be decided, Czaputowicz told reporters.

Warsaw was the last stop on Pompeo’s Central European tour. The U.S. Secretary of State visited the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and Poland to discuss security, including in 5G network development, but the trip agenda has been dominated by a growing unrest in Belarus.

Earlier on Saturday, Pompeo signed an expandeddefense cooperation agreement with Poland that will result in 1,000 additional U.S. personnel sent to the eastern European country in rotations.

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