Speaking to lawmakers and senior Minsk officials, Lukashenko said the EU’s response was part of a “hybrid war” against Belarus.
“Our villains outside and inside the country have changed their methods of attacking the state,” Lukashenko said. “That’s why they went from organizing riots to trying to strangle us.”
Lukashenko has faced unprecedented pressure at home with months of protests sparked by his re-election to a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition rejected as manipulated. But repression has only doubled and more than 35,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, with thousands beaten.
“They crossed numerous red lines, and also boundaries of reason and morality,” Lukashenko said. “It’s no longer just an information war, it’s a modern hybrid war and we have to do everything we can to prevent it from becoming a hot conflict.”
He threatened that Belarus would retaliate by weakening its border controls, stopping illegal migration and drug trafficking in the west.
“We stopped migrants and drugs; now you’ll catch them and eat them yourself,” he said.
Pratasevich, who left Belarus in 2019, has become Lukashenko’s main enemy with a popular messaging app he ran and played a key role in helping organize the huge protests. Following his arrest, the 26-year-old journalist was seen in a short video clip on Belarusian state television on Monday afternoon, speaking quickly to say he confessed to some of the charges presented to him by the authorities.