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Lukashenko closes Belarus border with Ukraine, alleges coup plot

People attend a protest against the results of the August presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus. File Photo by Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA-EFE
People attend a protest against the results of the August presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus. File Photo by Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA-EFE

July 3 (UPI) -- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ordered closure of the border with Ukraine over claims that weapons were flowing into the country as part of a coup attempt.

Lukashenko said during an event on Friday marking 30 years of post-Soviet independence for Belarus that he had ordered closure of its border with pro-Western Ukraine to prevent a "huge amount" of weapons arriving in the country, official media reported.

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The authoritarian ruler asserted the weapons are part of an attempt to form a coup and that they are being shipped to "terrorist cells" funded by Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and the United States.

Lukashenko declared that the "sleeper cells" had been exposed with the same countries acting as coordinators.

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"These cells intend to overthrow the government at a specified date," he asserted without offering substantive evidence.

The allegations come amid Western sanctions against Belarus over disputed August election and security forces escalating crackdown on dissent. The Viasna Human Rights Center tallied 529 political prisoners as of Saturday.

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko denied the Belarusian allegations.

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"Ukraine categorically rejects Alexander Lukashenko's accusation of alleged arms supply from Ukraine," Nikolenko told Ukrinform Saturday. "We have never interfered in the internal affairs of Belarus. We are not going to do that in the future. We expect the same position from Minsk so that the northern border remains a safe space."

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Nikolenko added that closure of the border hurts the Belarusian people since Ukraine is a democratic country that respects human rights.

"First of all, the Belarusian people would suffer from such a step," he said.

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The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said it had not yet received official notification from Belarus regarding changes in border protection.

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