Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko told the army yesterday that he would not have hesitated to call on it to handle street protests against his re-election last December if the unrest had got out of hand.
"If a situation had developed in such a way that the country had been really under threat, I would not have hesitated to use the armed forces," he told the military leadership, local news agencies said.
Riot police on December 19th rounded up several hundred demonstrators and several opposition candidates who ran against Mr Lukashenko, breaking up a big protest against what the opposition said was a fraudulent vote.
Those arrested are just coming to trial. In response to the crackdown, the US and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Mr Lukashenko, including a travel ban on him and his associates.
Mr Lukashenko, who had been in power since 1994 and was once described as Europe’s last dictator by the Bush administration, has ruled out any "revolution" in his country.
Reacting to the unrest against one-man rule sweeping the Middle East, Mr Lukashenko, in comments on Saturday, said revolts that toppled the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia showed the West’s treachery.
"So much for their honesty and integrity. Hosni Mubarak was the closest friend of the Americans ... Tunisia itself was a model. The European Union created and supported it. But when unrest began there they dumped their counterparts and began to demand democracy," he told journalists.
"It’s a lesson for us. No one can be trusted. No one can be relied on."