Russia finally congratulates Belarus strongman

Russ Prez congratulated his Belaru counterpart on his election to 4th term.

Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday congratulated his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on his election to a fourth term, a week after polls lambasted by Western observers.

Some EU foreign ministers have said engaging with Lukashenko is now a waste of time after the contested polls and a harsh crackdown on the opposition that has seen hundreds arrested following protests on election night.

In a conspicuously dry statement quoted by Russian news agencies, Medvedev`s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said the Kremlin chief has sent a letter to formally congratulate Lukashenko on his election victory.

"This letter was dispatched, taking into account the official publication of the results by the Belarus election commission and the report by Russian election commission chief Vladimir Churov about the conclusions of observers," Timakova said.
No further details were given and the contents of the letter were not disclosed.

The Belarus presidency however published one curt sentence from the letter on its website, quoting Medvedev as telling Lukashenko: "I wish you success and the brotherly Belarussian people peace and prosperity."

Belarus` central election commission yesterday announced official election results, giving Lukashenko victory with 79.6 per cent with his nearest challenger on a meagre 2.4 per cent.

Medvedev earlier this week described the elections as an "internal affair" for Belarus, amid mounting Western outrage over the beating and arrest of protestors by the security forces on the night of December 19.

The hundreds arrested include five of the nine candidates who challenged Lukashenko and a large proportion of the country`s leading opposition political and media figures.

They were protesting against an election OSCE observers said was still "a considerable way" from democratic standards and marred by multiple violations in the counting process.
Medvedev`s reaction was nonetheless considerably less effusive, or rapid, than some of the closest friends of the maverick Belarussian strongman.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, himself re-elected in disputed 2009 polls that sparked mass protests, described the Belarus ballot as a "golden page in the honourable history" of the Belarussian people, Iranian media said.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed the victory of a "great European leader" just one day after the vote, the foreign ministry said.

Medvedev had bickered with the Belarussian leader in the months running up to the polls but the Kremlin granted last-minute economic concessions to Lukashenko ahead of the elections.

Bureau Report

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