Germany says Merkel did not speak to Belarus leader

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a joint video press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at the end of the European summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 21, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

MINSK (Reuters) - The German government said on Monday Chancellor Angela Merkel had not spoken by telephone with Alexander Lukashenko since an Aug. 9 presidential election in Belarus, after Lukashenko said Merkel had called on Sunday asking to talk.

The Belarusian leader faces the biggest challenge to his 26-year rule amid protests and strikes against his declaration that he won the election.

“Yesterday Merkel called, ‘I want to talk,’” Interfax news agency quoted Lukashenko as saying on Monday.

A spokesman for the German government said the two leaders had not spoken to each other.

“Such a conversation between Merkel and Lukashenko has not taken place since the elections,” the spokesman told Reuters.

Lukashenko faces the threat of European Union sanctions after a crackdown on protests following what demonstrators say was his rigged re-election victory last week. He denies losing, citing official results that gave him just over 80% of the vote.

Reporting by Andrey Makhovsky in Minsk, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow and Andreas Rinke and Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Graff