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Democrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyEnd the practice of hitting children in public schools Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (D-Conn.) called on the White House to withdraw its nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Belarus after a widely disputed presidential election there.

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is trying to “steal” the election and threatened opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya into making a “hostage video accepting his victory in the elections.”

“These tactics are unacceptable and signal the weakness of a leader who must resort to force in order to stay in power,” Murphy said in a statement. “While I support greater ties between the United States and the Belarusian people, now is not the time to be elevating the diplomatic relationship with Lukashenko’s government.”

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“Sending an Ambassador to Minsk now, for the first time in over a decade, would signal that the United States condones these actions, and I am prepared to oppose the nomination in the Foreign Relations Committee unless it is withdrawn by the President.”

The statement comes after this month’s controversial election that showed Lukashenko with an overwhelming victory with approximately 80 percent of the vote. Opposition candidates and protesters are rejecting election results, and human rights groups have panned the excessive use of force by authorities against peaceful protesters.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday said the administration was “deeply concerned” over the election process and use of force against demonstrators.

“We urge the Belarusian government to respect the right to peaceably assemble and to refrain from the use of force,” she said.

President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE first announced in April that he was nominating Julie Fisher, who currently serves as deputy assistant secretary for Western Europe and the European Union in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, to be the ambassador to Belarus.

Republicans hold a 12 to 10 majority on the Senate panel charged with sending Trump's ambassadorial nominees to a vote on the Senate floor.