Defiant Belarus leader says no to fresh polls amid rival protests

Tens of thousands of protesters in Belarus have rallied for the biggest demonstration yet against the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, even as the leader rejected calls to step down and hold fresh polls.
In a defiant speech at a rally of his supporters in capital Minsk’s Independence Square, Lukashenko said Belarus would “die as a state if it agreed to hold new elections under pressure” and accused NATO of massing on his country’s western border.
“I called you here not to defend me … but for the first time in a quarter-century, to defend your country and its independence,” said the 65-year-old leader.
Belarus has been rocked by a week of street protests after protesters accused Lukashenko of rigging a presidential election last Sunday in which he claimed to have secured 80 percent of the votes.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands reports.

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