The president of Belarus says that the over 30 Russian mercenaries arrested there last week weren't just plotting to disrupt the election, that they were plotting an outright revolution and had already confessed.
A massacre in the capital of Minsk, President Alexander Lukashenko said in a fiery speech Tuesday (August 4), where he denounced Moscow's assertion that the men were just passing through his country.
The Belarus government has previously suggested that Russian security contractors may be linked to Lukashenko's political rivals.
This was the president on Tuesday (August 4):
"I am probably a bad geographer - but I do not understand, why would someone going to Africa by get there through the North Pole? It is much easier (to go there) from Novorossyisk, from Crimea. Skip and you are there, in Istanbul. Why go through Belarus? Or to Libya or somewhere else! Do not listen to those lies! Nobody needs those lies."
Belarus and Russia are traditionally allies, and Moscow has always maintained that it does not use security contractors to influence affairs in other countries.
Moscow says the men worked for a private company and were only en route to a third country, but had missed their connecting flight.
Lukashenko counters that the mercenaries had been given the order to enter Belarus and wait for further instructions.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, which has in the past dismissed Lukashenko's criticisms as emotional.
Lukashenko, in power since 1994, is up for re-election on Sunday and faces his biggest challenge in years amid public anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and human rights.