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EU raps Belarus over election violence, says may take measures

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday condemned what he called “disproportionate” violence by Belarus authorities against protesters following Sunday’s presidential election and said the EU could take unspecified measures.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, claimed victory with around 80% of the vote, triggering two nights of violent clashes between security forces and opposition supporters in which one protester was killed.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya said on Tuesday she had fled to neighbouring Lithuania for the sake of her children.

“The elections were neither free nor fair,” Borrell said in a statement, citing “credible reports” from domestic observers which showed the vote did not meet international standards.

“State authorities deployed disproportionate and unacceptable violence... Thousands of people were detained and the crackdown on freedoms of assembly, media and expression intensified,” he said.

Borrell said the EU could, as part of a planned review of relations with Belarus, take “measures against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests and falsification of election results”, without elaborating.

He urged Belarusian authorities to immediately release all those detained.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Gareth Jones