France's Macron ready to meet Belarus opposition leader

Clay Curtis
September 29, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that neighboring Belarus was under unprecedented external pressure, as the Kremlin's ex-Soviet ally faces a deep political crisis over a disputed election.

Interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova told AFP that "around 200" people were detained across Belarus.

"Today is the 50th day of our protest and the Belarusian people have again come out on the streets", she said in a statement from Lithuania, where she went into exile after the election.

"The protests are not going to stop", the 38-year-old said in an interview, adding that Belarus "badly needs" a dialogue between government and opposition in order to ensure there is "no more blood". Police and troops blocked off the center of Minsk with armored vehicles and water cannons.

Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory over Lukashenko in the election and has taken shelter in neighbouring Lithuania, has rallied support from European leaders.

Authorities have jailed or forced out of the country many of Tikhanovskaya's allies who formed the leadership of the Coordination Council that is seeking new elections and the transfer of power.

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Additionally, establishments will also be able to set up electric heaters on the sidewalks and roadways to help patrons stay warm. Mask-wearing compliance in these neighborhoods has been much lower than elsewhere in the city, officials said.

Makei's speech was played hours after the latest in a series of large protests in Belarus over the August 9 re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, which his opponents say was rigged.

Ahead of a trip Monday to Lithuania and Latvia, Macron was quoted in Sunday's Journal du Dimanche newspaper as saying "it's clear that Lukashenko must go".

Lukashenko's main election opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, praised protesters' determination and urged them not to let their energies flag.

The Yellow Vest demonstrations were provoked by fuel tax hikes in France in November 2018, but they quickly transitioned into a wider protest against Macron's policies and economic injustice.

Lukashenko has been in power for 26 years and has insisted that he has no intention of stepping down and denies electoral fraud. Protesters staged the events as an "inauguration of the people", according to RFE. Weekly rallies in Paris and other cities often turned violent, with French police facing accusations of using excessive force against the protesters.

Some protesters, who marched in a 2-kilometre-long chain through rain and strong winds, wore crowns made of cardboard and bore placards calling Mr Lukashenko "the naked king" to mock his inauguration.

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