Protesters demand resignation of Belarus leader amid threat of strikes

26 Octobre, 2020, 07:12 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Belarusian law enforcement officers and service members stand guard during an opposition rally on Oct 25 2020

Twelve metro stations were closed, helmeted riot police patrolled the streets and mobile Internet services were disrupted in Minsk.

A list of detained protesters released by the Viasna centre had over 130 names by Sunday evening.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russian Federation has been rocked by street protests and strikes since authorities announced that Mr Lukashenko had won the August 9 vote by a landslide.

Police did not act against the crowds in Minsk for most of the day.

There were reports of injuries among protesters.

TENS OF THOUSANDS of protesters have swarmed the streets of Minsk pressing for the resignation of Belarus' authoritarian leader in what human rights activists described as the largest anti-government rally since late August.

The protests have been going on continuously since the disputed presidential election in early August.

Mr Lukashenko's refusal to quit after 26 years in power will test whether the opposition has the mass support it needs to bring enterprises across the country of 9.5 million people to a halt.

Belarusian forces use water cannons to disperse protestors in the capital Minsk earlier this month.

According to human rights advocates, some 15,000 people have been detained in Belarus since the election and more than 100 of them were declared political prisoners.

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Protests against Lukashenko have persisted, despite a police threat to open fire on demonstrators.

The remarks, reported by Russia's Interfax news agency, come as protesters continue to call for Lukashenko's resignation and as he faces the prospect of a national strike that could begin on Monday.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya had previously set a "People's Ultimatum" for Mr. Lukashenko to resign by Sunday night, promising to call the strike if he did not.

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The demonstrations were triggered by official results giving President Alexander Lukashenko 80 per cent of the vote in the August election that the opposition insists was rigged.

Tikhanovskaya - who is in exile in Lithuania - said the national strike should go ahead, noting the violence from Lukashenko's security forces. "But to explode stun grenades in a crowd of people", she said in a statement Sunday.

"Today the regime has once again shown Belarusians that violence is the only thing it is capable of", Ms Tikhanovskaya said in a social media post, adding: "Therefore tomorrow, October 26, a national strike will begin".

Tsikhanouskaya's calls for a strike fuelled the protest and turned up the pressure on Lukashenko, commentators said.

According to the Viasna human rights center in Belarus, some 10 protesters were arrested on Saturday.

The ultimatum is an attempt to increase the political pressure on Mr Lukashenko but it also seems meant to inject new energy into the street protests.

"Even if the threat of a strike does not work, it will make the authorities very nervous, because the opposition is clearly trying to take steps towards dual power in the country", Klaskousky said.

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