US presidential hopeful Joe Biden voiced support on Tuesday for the Belarus opposition in its general strike against President Alexander Lukashenko, saying he was illegitimate.
Biden, who leads President Donald Trump in polls ahead of next week’s election, promised if he wins to “significantly expand” sanctions alongside European allies against “Lukashenko’s henchmen”.
Biden said in a statement: “Although President Trump refuses to speak out on their behalf, I continue to stand with the people of Belarus and support their democratic aspirations.
“I also condemn the appalling human rights abuses committed by the Lukashenko regime.
“No leader who tortures his own people can ever claim legitimacy.”
Workers at factories on Monday started a strike after a deadline for Lukashenko to resign set by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who contested him in August elections.
Tikhanovskaya claims to have won the election but Lukashenko insists he was the victor and has deployed deadly force against nationwide protests.
Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun in August visited Tikhanovskaya in Lithuania, where she has fled, and the US and the EU have joined in sanctions against Lukashenko associates.