MINSK - Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Friday called for new protests and an election recount, piling pressure on strongman president Alexander Lukashenko as he faces the biggest challenge in his 26 years in power.
In a video posted on YouTube from self-imposed exile in Lithuania, Tsikhanouskaya asked supporters to demand an official investigation into allegations that Lukashenko had rigged last Sunday's presidential election.
At least two protesters were killed and thousands detained in a violent crackdown this week, prompting the European Union to consider new sanctions on Belarus, which is seen by Russia as a strategic buffer against NATO and the EU.
"Belarusians will never again want to live with the old authorities," Tsikhanouskaya said. "Let's defend our choice. Don't stay on the sidelines. Our voices need to be heard."
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets for a sixth consecutive day demanding that Lukashenko step down, joined by workers at some of the state-owned industrial plants that are the centerpiece of his Soviet-style economic model.