Belarusian women rally in solidarity with injured protesters

Clay Curtis
August 14, 2020

Thousands of people were back on the streets of Belarus' capital on Thursday to keep protesting against a vote that extended the 26-year rule of the country's authoritarian leader, and against a brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

Official statements suggested a more conciliatory approach following public outrage at extreme police violence including shootings and beatings. Authorities have detained around 7,000 protesters, using seemingly unprovoked violence in numerous eyewitness videos of detentions shared online.

The ministry said protesters gathered in 25 cities and towns on Tuesday night and that more than 1,000 people had been detained.

Meanwhile, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia are ready to mediate between the Belarusian government and the opposition, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Wednesday.

Protesters are contesting the official count showing President Alexander Lukashenko winning a sixth term with 80 per cent of Sunday's vote and the main opposition challenger garnering 10 per cent. Crowds have taken to the streets every night since to demand a recount.

Police moved aggressively to break up the protests with batons, stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

At least two people have died and hundreds have been wounded in the violence while almost 7,000 have been arrested. The peaceful demonstrations resumed Thursday.

Large groups of workers at several major factories staged walk-outs, local media reported.

European Union foreign ministers have announced they will meet on Friday to discuss targeted sanctions against Belarus following Sunday's contested election and subsequent violent crackdown down on protesters, Sweden's top diplomat said.

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On Thursday, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics joined the growing chorus of those calling for "individual sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for crackdown of protests and election fraud".

A former Soviet collective farm manager, the 65-year-old Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century but faces anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a sluggish economy and human rights.

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.

The interior ministry on Wednesday acknowledged police deliberately fired on a group of protesters, wounding one.

In the narrower option, only some officials at the Belarusian election body or security forces who oversaw clashes with protesters could be sanctioned. One protester died on Monday in Minsk, and many were injured. The authorities confirmed that a detainee also died in the southeastern city Gomel, but the circumstances of his death weren't immediately clear.

The protester's mother told by Radio Free Europe that her son had not taken part in any protests and was arrested as he was going to see his girlfriend.

"After last Sunday's Presidential elections, Alexander Lukashenko and the [Belarusian] authorities must stop the repression against the Belarus people and open negotiations with the wider society", he said.

Tikhanovskaya said the vote was rigged and claimed victory, demanding that Lukashenko hand over power, but left Belarus on Tuesday for neighbouring Lithuania for the sake of her children, with supporters saying she came under pressure from authorities.

No final decision was expected on Friday, but the response could be finalised within days after another discussion among European Union foreign ministers due in Berlin on August 27-28, the sources said.

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