Belarus leader Lukashenko calls for armed street patrols, warns of 'extremist' crime

  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting of the Supreme State Council of Russia-Belarus Union State in Saint Petersburg, Russia January 29, 2024. Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/Pool via REUTERS/ File Photo

(Reuters) - Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko called on law enforcement agencies on Tuesday to organise patrols with small arms on the streets of Belarusian cities to ensure the safety of people.

"People should feel safe at home, at work, on the street, at any time of the day," Lukashenko said in a video from a meeting with the country's top security bodies, posted on Pul Pervovo, a state outlet that reports on Lukashenko's activities.

Lukashenko said that while the crime rate in Belarus was decreasing, the country was at risk of crimes of an "extremist nature".

"Today, this is the most important aspect of maintaining law and order – to suppress the actions of thugs and preventing the loss of souls, who do not yet fully understand what foreign curators are targeting them," he said in the video clip.

"I warn the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the KGB, the special services, everyone, the prosecutor's office - anyone: we need to take control of this. Our patrol guys must be on the streets...Patrols must be armed with small arms, at least pistols."

Lukashenko backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 by allowing Moscow to use its territory to launch the war and agreed last year to deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons in his country on Russia's western border.

Last week he said several "saboteurs", including Ukrainian and Belarusian nationals, had been detained on the border of the two countries in a "counter-terrorist operation" and that similar groups were detained "two or three times a week".

In January, authorities in Belarus launched an investigation into a group of 20 independent analysts and commentators now outside the country and accused of conspiring to seize power and promote extremism.

In power since 1994, Lukashenko staged a new crackdown on dissent after stamping out unprecedented demonstrations against what his opponents say was his rigged re-election in 2020.

(Reporting by Oleksandr Kozhukhar, Ron Popeski and Lidia Kelly; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)

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