Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday ordered his defense minister to take “the strictest measures” to defend the territorial integrity of the country, shaken by a protest movement since the controversial presidential election of August 9.

Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, came on Saturday to inspect the military units deployed in Grodno, in western Belarus, near the Polish border, according to a statement posted on Telegram by the Belarusian presidency.

Arrived on the military polygon in Grodno, he denounced the protest movement instigated according to him “from the outside”.

“I order the Minister of Defense (…) to defend above all the western pearl of Belarus whose center is in Grodno. And to take the strictest measures to defend the territorial integrity of our country”, declared the president.

The statement comes as large Belarusian military exercises are planned in the Grodno region between August 28 and 31.

“Attacks on national security”

Alexander Lukashenko, who claims to have won the election with 80% of the votes, faces a protest movement unprecedented in this former Soviet republic.

The opposition denounces fraud and organizes daily demonstrations in the country. A “coordination council”, intended to promote the political transition after the election, was formed this week by the opposition but the authorities began Thursday against him for prosecution for “attacking national security”.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, a refugee in Lithuania, assured Friday that the Belarusian people “will never accept the current leadership”.

For his part, Alexander Lukashenko assured Friday that he would “solve the problem” of the protest movement.

afp / kkub

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