İrem UZUN -TDO- Belarusian authorities have threatened to start shooting demonstrators, massively escalating the stakes in the two-month standoff between dictator Alexander Lukashenko and the nation.  In a video message released on social media on Monday, deputy interior minister Gennady Kazakevich claimed protests had become “extremely radical".   “Interior ministry officers and soldiers will not leave the streets,” he said. “If necessary, they will use special equipment and firearms.”

Referring to Sunday's protests in the capital, Minsk, Kazakevich said they had become organized and extremely radical, adding they now mainly centered on Minsk and were less widespread. Whereas protesters hurled stones and bottles in the afternoon, as well as wielding knives, by nightfall they had moved on to building barricades and burning tyres, he said. "This has nothing to do with civil protests. We're confronted not just by aggression, but by groups of militants, radicals, anarchists and football hooligans," he said in a video statement.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have imposed sanctions against senior officials in Belarus accused of fraud and human rights abuses in the wake of the election. Lukashenko should be part of a new sanctions list by the European Union, Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday before meeting his European counterparts in Luxembourg. "We have to acknowledge that since our last meeting nothing has improved. The Lukashenko regime continues to exercise violence, we still see arrests of peaceful demonstrators," Maas said. "I proposed to pave the way for another sanctions package, and Lukashenko should be one of the people on this sanctions list."

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