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VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania on Friday refused to extradite to Belarus opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, with the Baltic nation’s foreign minister saying “hell will freeze over first” before the demand by Belarus’ authoritarian leader is granted.

Tsikhanouskaya lost to Alexander Lukashenko in an Aug.

9 presidential election. Official results showed Lukashenko to have garnered 80% of the vote while Tsikhanouskaya received 10%.

Tsikhanouskaya and her supporters refused to recognize the results, saying the outcome of the vote was manipulated. Unprecedented mass protests demanding Lukashenko’s resignation rocked Belarus for several months.

Tsikhanouskaya sought refuge in neighboring Lithuania right after the election amid pressure from Belarusian authorities. On Tuesday, Belarus demanded her extradition on charges that she plotted to stage violent riots. Tsikhanouskaya’s team rejected the charges, saying in a statement that she has always supported only peaceful protests.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that in his country people seeking shelter “can feel safe and no one would be handed over … because of their fight for democracy, freedom of speech or freedom of religion.”

Lukashenko’s government has unleashed a sweeping crackdown on post-election protests, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Human rights activists say more than 30,000 people have been detained since the demonstrations began, with thousands beaten.

The West has condemned the conduct of the election and the brutal crackdown on protesters. The United States and the European Union have said that the election was neither free nor fair and urged Lukashenko to engage in talks with the opposition, a demand he has rejected.

International pressure has so far left Lukashenko, who has run the country for 26 years, relying exclusively on assistance from Russia, which has a union agreement with Belarus envisaging close political, economic and military ties.

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Alaska House special election results still too early to call


The winner of the race for Alaska’s at-large U.S. House seat will likely not be known until closer to the end of the month due to the way the state counts some absentee ballots and its new ranked-choice voting system.

SARAH PALIN ATTEMPTS POLITICAL COMEBACK IN ALASKA HOUSE RACE

The special election, prompted by the death of Alaska’s longtime GOP Rep. Don Young earlier this year, includes a comeback attempt by ex-Gov. Sarah Palin, who became a conservative media personality after an unsuccessful vice presidential bid in 2008, more than a decade after she left office in 2009.

The House race also included Republican businessman Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. Independent candidate Al Gross, who emerged from the primary as well, said shortly thereafter that he would withdraw.

Republicans Palin and Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola advanced to the November general election in the primary race to serve the full two-year term for the same House seat.

Alaska held its U.S. Senate primary and a special House election on Tuesday, test cases for the Frontier State’s new voting system, which allows four candidates to advance from a primary election.

The state’s Division of Elections must count every ballot before it begins tabulating ranked votes. The state permits ballots mailed from overseas voters to be accepted until Aug. 31 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

Unless the top vote-getter in the U.S. House race has more than 50% of the vote once all initial ballots are counted, which appears unlikely based on initial returns, the elections division will then count voters' ranked choices, after which the last-place candidate is eliminated, with his or her voters’ subsequent choices going to their next choice's tally. The process goes on for as many rounds as it takes until one candidate reaches a 50%-plus-one-vote threshold and is declared the winner.

The division expects to certify its House special election results on Sept. 2, according to local media.

In the Senate race, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) advanced in a crowded open primary in a contest that pitted the centrist Republican against a Trump-backed challenger.

Seeking reelection to a seat she has held for nearly two decades, Murkowski faced more than a dozen opponents in a so-called jungle primary, including Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who has targeted lawmakers who backed his impeachment in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Trump held a rally with Tshibaka and Palin last month in Anchorage. Tshibaka also advanced to the general election as one of the top four vote-getters in the primary.

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Alaska Daily News reported that Young’s former office officially closed on Tuesday, with his remaining staffers taken off the payroll. The office will remain vacant for several weeks until the winner of the special House election is sworn in, likely next month. Young’s former chief of staff Alex Ortiz told the outlet that Alaskans in need of constituent services in the interim should contact Murkowski’s or Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R) offices until their new representative is sworn in.

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