Thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets since Sunday, when polls showed Lukashenko, who ruled Belarus for 26 years, received 80% of the vote.
Opposition groups claim the election was ruined by popular ballot stuffing and fraud to keep Lukashenko in power, while the independent monitoring group “Honesty” said according to data from Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskay himself won at least 80 voting points across Belarus. Many people are now asking for a recount.
The Belarus Press Association said in a statement on Wednesday at least 50 journalists had also been arrested or injured during street protests.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned violence in a statement on Wednesday, arguing “the use of force in demonstrations should always be the exception and the last resort, clearly differentiating. Between any violent individuals and peaceful protesters, against any force should not be used. “
Lukashenko has downplayed accusations of brutally torturing opponents. He said he still has wide support and warned Belarus people that they should not participate in unregulated protests.
But his opponent said otherwise.
The two said they were forced to leave Belarus because of government threats. Tikhanovskay, who supported her husband as an opposition candidate after he was jailed in the vote, fled the country earlier this week. Her election campaign told CNN Sunday that nine people involved in the campaign were arrested and her decision to leave was part of the release of her peers.
A Tikhanovskay representative, Olga Kovalkova, told Belarus newspaper TUT.BY on Tuesday that Tikhanovskaya “had no other choice” and said that part of the opposition candidate’s team is still being “taken as a child. believe”.
Tikhanovskay and her children are currently in neighboring Lithuania, where the dispute has been proposed.
There have been reports of protests in dozens of cities and towns, but the majority of arrests took place in the capital Minsk, where the ring roads and key streets were blockaded by protesters. Monday night and police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Analysts said the level of police violence against the protesters was unprecedented.
“They used tornadoes, stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas,” Alex Kokcharov, a political risk analyst at IHS Markit, specializing in Belarus, told CNN. “I think the police response is to cause some casualties, such as injuries, which will keep a lot of people out of the protests.”
Lukashenko enjoys widespread support from the country’s elites, but what will “break” them “is the widespread civil disobedience movement like long-term labor strikes in state-owned enterprises and networks. traffic, “added Kokcharov.
Famous Belarus opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, the last of the three women to become the face of the opposition still in the country, told CNN she believes conflicts over election results cause The dispute signaled the decline of Lukashenko’s long term presidency.
“He’s gone. He has to accept that the people of Belarus don’t like him and don’t like him staying in the President of Belarus,” said Kolesnikova.
Kolesnikova, Tikhanovskaya and a third woman, Veronika Tsepkalo, joined forces to take over Lukashenko in the election after some opposition candidates were also barred from running or jailed. Lukashenko dismissed them as “poor girls” in his annual speech in his union speech last week, and said he would not “give away the country.”
But the trio seem to be receiving considerable support. Tikhanovskaya’s campaign protests saw a significant number of voters even in small Belarusian towns not known for their protest activity. About 63,000 people attended the biggest event in Minsk in July – the biggest rally in the past decade.
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger and Tara John contributed to this report.