VILNIUS (Reuters) – Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said on Monday the United States had no indication of any planned Russian military intervention in Belarus, and urged Minsk to accept mediation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Biegun spoke in Lithuania, which shares a border with Belarus, and his trip signals a greater U.S. role in trying to settle the strife that erupted when Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko cracked down on peaceful protesters who rejected his claim of a landslide election victory.
Asked about possible Russian military intervention, the number two U.S. diplomat said: “Of course that would be most unwelcome, but we don’t have any indication beyond some of the public remarks that we’ve heard.”
He spoke after meeting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate in Belarus’s Aug. 9 presidential election who took refuge in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius after the vote, which protesters say was rigged.
“We urge the government of Belarus to accept the OSCE chair’s offer to facilitate dialogue and engage all stakeholders,” Biegun told a conference in Vilnius.
“The United States cannot and will not decide the course of events in Belarus, this is the right of the Belarusian people.”
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Justyna Pawlak and Mark Heinrich)