Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has denied involvement in the death of an exiled activist in Ukraine last week, claiming he was “nobody” to the administration in Minsk.
Activist Vitali Shishov, who helped Belarusians flee their country, was found hanged in a park in Kyiv.
His organisation accused Lukashenko’s regime of carrying out the killing.
Lukashenko said he was “reasonable” and not a dictator, insisting that he is protecting “the security and safety” of the state.
Belarus’ authoritarian leader was speaking at an annual press conference on the one-year anniversary of the country’s disputed August 9 presidential elections. Lukashenko was announced as the winner but his critics believe the vote was rigged in his favour.
Mass protests broke out after the election and led to a heavy crackdown by authorities on protesters, dissidents and the independent media. Over 35,000 people were arrested and thousands were beaten and jailed.
Addressing multiple scandals from the past month, Lukashenko also mocked the Belarusian athlete who fled the Tokyo Olympics, stating that she was 36th in her discipline and that the International Olympic Committee had pressured Belarus to include her.
The runner, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, escaped to Poland last week after accusing her coaches of trying to force her back to Belarus.
He also denied blackmailing neighbouring states by allowing migrants to cross the border with the European Union as well.
“Illegal migration: no, we don’t blackmail anyone, we don’t threaten anybody. You just place us under conditions, so that we have to react, and we react,” Lukashenko said, adding that he didn’t have the same resources as Russia, China or the European Union.
Lithuania says there has been a surge in migration over the border and that it has been orchestrated by Lukashenko’s government.
Lukashenko has been subject to international sanctions and condemnation from the west in the year since the country’s disputed elections and subsequent crackdown on dissidents.
He claimed on Monday that the opposition had plotted a coup ahead of last year’s election as well, stating that while “some were preparing for a fair election, and others called for bashing the authorities — for a coup.”