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Belarus elections: Women form ‘chains of solidarity’ to condemn persecution



Female protesters support protesters detained and wounded in Belarus

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EPA

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Many women wore white when they protested the police̵

7;s violent and controversial results

Women have formed a chain of people in Belarus to condemn a crackdown of disputed elections.

Many people wear white and carry flowers as they call for an end to police brutality.

Unrest erupted across the country after longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential election, sparking allegations of vote fraud.

Thousands of people were arrested and at least two were killed.

In the latest official figures, the Interior Ministry said police arrested 700 people during Wednesday’s protests, bringing the total to 6,700.

Some of the detainees were released on Thursday. Tearful relatives have gathered outside a prison north of the capital Minsk, hoping to be reunited with their loved ones or for information on their whereabouts.

When the demonstration took place on Thursday, hundreds of women formed the “solidarity chain” in Minsk. The participants told reporters they wanted a peaceful solution, as they called for the release of all detained protesters.

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This is the second day in a row that women in Minsk have organized such action. Similar scenes have been reported elsewhere in the country as well.

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The video shared on social media shows opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining the female protesters in Minsk, holding a bouquet of flowers.

She was one of three women who had gathered her resources to lead the opposition. The other two have left the country.

Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on polling day while the main opposition candidate in the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was briefly arrested on Monday before running to Lithuania.

An associate said Tikhanovskaya was escorted from the country by authorities as part of an agreement allowing the release of her campaign manager, who was arrested prior to the election.

Ms. Tikhanovskaya, 37, released a video saying she had made a “very difficult decision” to leave for the children.

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Media annotationSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “No life is worth what is happening now”

The opposition candidate was a mother who stayed at home until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering to vote.

She became Lukashenko’s toughest opposition to opposition in years, spearheading massive protests leading up to the vote.

But Mr Lukashenko has rejected her bid, saying that a woman cannot lead Belarus.

“Our constitution is not for women,” he said earlier this year. “Our society is not mature enough to elect women. This is because the president holds a lot of constitutional power.”

Mr. Lukashenko, 65, has been ruling the former Soviet Union country since 1994. He has described the opposition’s supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.

As the protests resumed on Thursday, some workers staged strikes.

Russian internet giant Yandex said armed individuals entered its offices in Minsk and banned the employees inside from leaving. The company said it is trying to get more information about the case.

Shock at police brutality when testimony increased

By Olga Ivshina, BBC Russian

Body evidence of police brutality, both on the street and inside of the remaining prisons, is growing. Those arrested not only included opposition activists, but also many journalists and accidental passers-by.

One of the released journalists, Nikita Telizhenko of Russian news website Znak.com, published an account of three days in prison. Now returning to Russia, he describes people lying on the floor of a detention center, piled up, in a pool of blood and feces. It is not allowed to use the toilet for many consecutive hours or even change positions.

He said that he had seen people seriously injured, with broken limbs and bruises, not only without medical assistance, but also more kicked and beaten by the guards.

Telizhenko’s testimony is confirmed by countless social media posts – photos, videos, stories. I spoke to an American woman who was visiting her Belarus boyfriend in Minsk – he was detained for unknown reasons. Not only did he not object, but was also sleeping in bed when the police came over to his apartment, kicked the door and took him away.

What else happened?

Election officials said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote on Sunday, but protests broke out amid widespread allegations of election fraud. The result has been condemned by the European Union as “neither free nor fair”.

Hundreds of people were injured during a police crackdown of the protests, some seriously injured. A BBC crew was attacked by police on Tuesday night.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of two people.

A protester died during a rally in the capital Minsk on Monday. The Belarusian Interior Ministry accused an explosive device in his hand.

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A 25-year-old man also died in the southeastern city of Gomel on Wednesday. The Belarus Investigation Commission said he was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in prison for participating in an illegal protest, but died after being taken to hospital for feeling unwell.

The protester’s mother told Radio Free Europe that her son did not participate in any of the protests and was arrested when he went to see his girlfriend. She said he had a heart problem and was held for hours in a police car.

People shouted the words “out” from their balconies, the same slogan used by protesters on the ground. The police responded by firing rubber bullets.

The United Nations has condemned the authorities’ use of violence.

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Video shared on social media showed former special forces officers throwing their uniforms into barrels out of indignation at the actions of their former colleagues.

“I am proud of the unit I have served [in]. Now I’m ashamed. Shame on those who follow such orders, “said one former officer.

Employees in several factories and academies went on strike, demanded an end to the violence and called on Tikhanovskaya to be recognized as the winner.

Others who were not on strike held meetings with their managers to express their anger at the results of the election and the police crackdown.

‘Everyone here is angry’

By Tatsiana Melnichuk, BBC Russian, Minsk

The protests were of unprecedented scale as people in dozens of cities, towns and even villages emerged and called for the main opposition figure, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, to be recognized as the winner in Sunday presidential election.

I watched as young men and women ran through my windows for safety, halted the clashes and then turned to face the police.

My neighbor women are trying to prevent their sons and husbands from participating in the nightly rallies, out of concern for their safety.

About 7,000 people have been detained and you do not need to protest to be arrested. My friend’s son, a college lecturer, was randomly detained before the election and spent three days in a cell.

The Ministry of the Interior confirmed its measures were “adequate” and pointed out that more than 100 police officers were injured and 28 people were being treated in hospitals. There have been deliberate attempts by drivers to get past the traffic police and “law enforcement used weapons” to stop them, it said.

People here were outraged: with the police, the authorities and, above all, President Alexander Lukashenko. No one I’ve talked to has any support for what the police are doing.

Belarus elections: Shocked by violence, people are out of fear


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