(Bloomberg) -- Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election in August was “fraudulent,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday, as the U.S. ratcheted up international pressure on the embattled Eastern European leader.

“The U.S. is extremely concerned by continued human-rights violations in the wake of Belarus’ election,” McEnany told reporters at a White House briefing. “Reports of opposition figures being kidnapped, being forcibly expelled or otherwise threatened are just a few of the many methods that the Belorussian government is using in its attempts to deny freedom of speech.”

Lukashenko has faced massive protests since the election, the most serious challenge yet to his 26-year-rule. His regime has cracked down on opposition leaders in the country, detaining or forcing into exile almost all the main organizers of the anti-government demonstrations.

He is preparing to soon meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his most important international patron. The European Union and the U.S. have threatened sanctions over the crackdown on the opposition.

“The election there was not a real election,” McEnany said. “It was neither free nor fair. It was fraudulent. The massive number of Belorussians protesting peacefully makes clear that the government can no longer ignore the people’s calls for democracy.”

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