Belarus police on Sunday arrested more than 800 people in the latest weeks of unprecedented protests against strongman Alexander Lukashenko, as the opposition linked to US President-elect Joe Biden.
During the three-month campaign, tens of thousands took to the streets of Belarus on Sunday to protest Lukashenko’s re-election, who has been in power for more than two decades.
His opponents are asking him to give power to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a newcomer to run for president against Lukashenko on August 9.
Several thousand protesters, many carrying red and white opposition flags, took part in a march in central Minsk on Sunday.
Police trucks and cannons have been deployed to the city center, with police detaining the protesters in various locations.
Journalists working with AFP witnessed the presence of a dense security force, with riot police carrying baton in black tank tops grabbing protesters̵7; necks and transporting them into police cars. close.
Local human rights group Viasna says at least 830 people have been detained in the capital Minsk and other cities.
According to Tut.by, Olympic champion Andrei Kravchenko and 2008 Miss Belarus winner Olga Khizhinkova were among the detainees, according to Tut.by.
Beneficiary Yelena Vasilyevich told AFP she was participating in Sunday’s rally with family and friends.
Vasilyevich, 65, said: “Finally I want to live in a free and democratic country.
From life in exile in Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya said the protests would continue “until victory” and the past 90 days showed their administration had “lost legitimacy and power”.
“The regime doesn’t want us to decide what happens next with our country,” she wrote on her Telegram channel on Sunday.
– ‘Stolen election’ –
Tikhanovskaya, 38, said she was the true winner of the presidential poll and has received the support of several Western leaders who have refused to recognize the results of the election. dispatch.
On Saturday, she congratulated Biden and said that she hopes to meet the newly elected president.
“This is a real race of ideas, programs and teams, unlike Belarus, where the votes in elections are simply stolen, in the US, the votes of every election are made. tri has been taken into account, “she said.
She said she believes Biden will “soon meet the president-elect of a new, free Belarus”.
The Biden Democrats have previously voiced support for the Belarusian opposition and promised to expand sanctions against the regime.
Mr Lukashenko on Saturday called the US vote a “mockery of democracy” and said he did not expect relations with Washington to change regardless of the election outcome.
In addition to the large-scale rallies on Sunday, smaller rallies have been organized by professional groups such as teachers, students and medical professionals.
On Saturday, about 50 medical workers staged a demonstration outside a Minsk hospital, the local news agency reported. Dozens of them have been detained.
In October, a number of state universities expelled students who held sit-on-campus demonstrations.
“We are citizens of conscience and cannot be silent if lawlessness is happening in the country,” law student Tamara Babina, 20, told AFP at Sunday’s rally.
– EU sanctions –
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Lukashenko, 66, and some of his allies, imposing a ban on travel and frozen property due to election fraud and police violence.
Previous protests in Minsk have been met with a brutal crackdown with police using stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the gatherings.
Many of those detained reported the brutal treatment including beatings and torture at the hands of security forces.
Authorities have also threatened to use real bullets at the protesters.
With Moscow-backed Lukashenko refusing to resign and the opposition unable to force him to resign, the political situation appears to have come to a standstill.
Two weeks ago, the opposition announced a nationwide strike but it failed to gain momentum and its influence on the country’s economy appears to have been limited.
tk-acl-mm / spm