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Nov. 27 (UPI) — Belarusian state media reported Friday that President Alexander Lukashenko has said he will step down after the country adopts a new constitution.
“I am not going to shape the Constitution to suit my needs. I am not going to be the president once the new Constitution is in place. This is why calm down and weather it calmly,” Lukashenko is quoted as saying in a story on the state-owned BelTA news agency’s website.
Lukashenko, who is sometimes described as “Europe’s last dictator,” claimed victory in an Aug. 9 election opponents say was rigged. This is his sixth term as president of the country, which he has led for 26 years.
While Friday’s story marks the first time he has talked about stepping aside, Lukashenko, speaking on the same day he met with employees of a hospital in Minsk, was also critical of the protest movement opposing his regime.
“Thank god, we have a power vertical. You may have noticed that our infamous protesters primarily strike at the president and the power vertical. They want democracy, they want to elect everyone… We saw that in Gorbachev’s time,” he said. “Back then we could elect everyone, including heads of enterprises. What did we elect in the end? We lost the country and the USSR collapsed. Now they want us to fall for the same dirty trick.”
Lukashenko also did not offer a time frame for the completion of a new constitution.
Last month the European Parliament announced that it plans to award the Sakharov Prize for human rights and freedom of thought to the democratic opposition, which has organized massive protests throughout the country since August.