Mass strikes hit Belarus in sixth day of protests against 'rigged' election

Joanna Estrada
August 15, 2020

Various news reports indicate that thousands of protesters have been arrested and/or beaten by Lukashenka's special police, which has employed water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and, apparently, sometimes live ammunition and shotguns.

Police reportedly sought to ease angry demonstrators by releasing 2,000 jailed protestors Friday.

Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on the day of the vote while the main opposition candidate in the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was briefly detained on Monday before being forced to leave for Lithuania.

White bracelets, flowers, a punched fist and a Soviet-era song: all have become symbols of opposition to the re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to serve a sixth term.

'Don't throw yourselves onto the streets. Now back in Russian Federation, he describes people lying on the floor of a detention centre, piled on top of each other, in a pool of blood and excrement. Aggression against our country has already begun, he said, suggesting anti-Kremlin activists were trying to whip up trouble.

The official results gave her 10 per cent of the vote, but Ms Tikhanovskaya said the election was rigged and claimed victory, demanding that Mr Lukashenko, 65, hand over power.

To try to ease global criticism, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said in a phone call with his Swiss counterpart that Belarus was ready for a "constructive and objective dialogue" with foreign partners on all issues related to the election and subsequent events. Don't stay on the sidelines.

Emerging from a jail in Minsk with other Belarusians detained in a post-election crackdown, 27-year-old maths teacher Yana Bobrovskaya said she never expected to make it out alive.

Hungary is the leading sceptic on sanctions, which require unanimity of all the European Union countries to be agreed.

Protesters were joined by workers at some of the state-owned industrial plants that are the centrepiece of his Soviet-style economic model.

Friday's crowds drew over 20,000 protestors to Independence Square in Minsk.

In a carnival atmosphere, marchers held up balloons, flags and placards saying 'we will not forget, we will not forgive.Horns from passing cars blared in solidarity.

Some of those freed in the capital Minsk had bruises and described being tightly packed inside cells and complained of mistreatment, including beatings. The Government denied abusing detainees.

"I remind the Belarusian authorities that the use of force during protests should always be exceptional and a measure of last resort, clearly differentiating between any violent individuals and peaceful protesters, against whom force should not be used", Michelle Bachelet, high commissioner for human rights at the United Nations, said in a statement.

Belarus's Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said in an earlier call with his Swiss counterpart that Minsk was ready for "constructive and objective dialogue with foreign partners" on the election and its aftermath.

Observers say the official statements and the release of the prisoners suggested a more conciliatory approach following public outrage and global condemnation at the police response.

Diplomats said, however, Budapest would likely agree to a narrow list of people who would be barred from travelling to the European Union and forfeit any assets they have in the bloc as soon as later this month - rapid by European Union standards. It was officially announced in Minsk that the incumbent, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, was reelected with over 80 percent of the vote.

"Free flow of information is crucial in any democratic society, and especially in a context of crisis and social unrest", said Bachelet.

He said workers in his shop went on strike Friday to demand a new election. Tsikhanouskaya had earlier called on her supporters to stop protests in a video that her associates said was recorded under pressure from law enforcement officials before she left Belarus for Lithuania.

Yesterday she called for the worldwide community to facilitate talks with the authorities and said she wanted to set up a council to enable a transfer of power, a proposal that was swiftly endorsed by the president of Lithuania.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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