Protests versus 'Europe's last dictator' continue in Belarus

Cheryl Sanders
August 13, 2020

His main opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, initially protested the results of the election, then disappeared - and resurfaced in neighboring Lithuania, to join her children, who were sent out of Belarus for their safety during the campaign.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Mr Lukashenko is grappling to contain the biggest challenge in years to his rule of the country, which is seen by neighbouring Russian Federation as a strategic buffer against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

The Belarusian interior ministry said 51 protesters and 14 police officers had been injured in clashes on Tuesday night.

Belarus has witnessed major protests since the country's presidential election concluded on August 9.

After large-scale gatherings in Minsk and other cities on Sunday, the protests have become scattered and smaller as police cordoned off city centres and shut down public transport.

In the capital Minsk, protesters and witnesses said riot police used indiscriminate force against those who did gather, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets in the suburbs. They also patrolled residential areas, firing at vehicles and grabbing people hiding inside the entrances of blocks of flats, local media reported.

"A group of aggressive citizens with metal rods in their hands attacked police employees in Brest" on Tuesday, spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said in a statement on Wednesday. One protester died Monday in Minsk, and scores were injured. Authorities confirmed that one more man died in a hospital in the city of Gomel, southeastern Belarus, after being detained by police, but the circumstances of his death weren't immediately clear.

"W$3 e've watched the violence and the aftermath, peaceful protesters being treated in ways that are inconsistent with how they should be treated", he said, speaking from Prague.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Alexievich, victor of the 2015 Nobel Literature Prize for her work chronicling life under the Soviet regime, expressed outrage at the "inhumane, satanic" actions of riot police and urged Lukashenko to go peacefully.

"Leave before it's too late, before you've thrown people into a awful abyss, into the abyss of civil war", she told her long-term foe in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "But, unfortunately, there are no calls being heard for the revival of consciousness of Belarusians, restoration of statehood and independence", Kanopatskaya stressed.

Protesters say they are undeterred by police violence.

She put out another post calling on "both sides" to stay calm.

Several prominent journalists and presenters working for state media have also resigned in recent days in protest.

She emphasizes that people are taking to the streets of Belarusian cities against the government, against dictatorship that has been set up.

European Union foreign ministers are set to discuss Belarus at an extraordinary meeting on Friday, with some in the bloc calling for the re-imposition of sanctions.

Almost 7,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured in a police crackdown on demonstrators protesting the official results that said Lukashenko won 80 per cent of the vote and his top opposition challenger got only 10 per cent.

The President, alleging a foreign-backed plot to destabilise the country, has dismissed the demonstrators as criminals and the unemployed.

The 37-year-old former teacher joined the race to replace her husband, an opposition blogger, who has been jailed since May.

Thousands of people have rallied all across Belarus since Sunday, demanding a recount of the ballot that gave Lukashenko a landslide victory with 80 percent of the vote, and his top opposition challenger only 10 percent.

Other reports by iNewsToday