Last Sunday marked the fourth consecutive weekend of demonstrations in Belarus. Protests against Lukashenko’s rule have continued across Belarus since the 9th August, the date when presidential election took place. The election’s result was widely regarded as rigged, and rejected by the EU and US as neither free, nor fair. For the past three Sundays, the center of Minsk has been crammed with crowds of 100,000 to 200,000 protesters. Protests also took place in major cities throughout Belarus. These protests have been met with brutal police violence, political persecution of opposition figures and thousands of detention of free protesters.
While the election date was approaching, opposition leaders and candidates were subjected to massive crackdown from Lukashenko’s rule. Given the political oppression, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (main opposition candidate) entered the race following the arrest of her husband, who was blocked from registering as a candidate. The image of three independent women (Sviatlana and Veronika Tsepkalo, Maria Kolesnikova) brought hope to the Belarusian people for the August 9th elections.
Protest bringing all the communities together
Marches and demonstrations by women have become a frequent feature of the protests in Belarus. For the first time, supporters of LGBTQ+ rights appeared with rainbow flags in the women’s march in Minsk on Saturday.
Detentions and casualties
The interior ministry confirmed on Monday (7th September) that at least 633 arrests had been made across the republic. It said some 363 people had been sent to detention centers pending court hearings. Belarus police haven’t spared even the students. They marked the start of the academic year with protests against leader Lukashenko. Massive protests have recorded at least four casualties and hundreds injured as the government tries to halt the protests.
Political persecution of opposition leaders
Belarusian authorities have recently targeted the opposition National Co-ordination Council, which was set up by opposition leader Tikhanovskaya to handle the transfer of power and includes figures from across society. Government authorities have launched a criminal case against opposition leaders, saying the “creation and activity of the Co-ordination Council are aimed at the seizure of state power, and at harming national security”.
Another female activist, Olga Kovalkova, announced on previous week she had fled to Poland amid threats of imprisonment. She said that authorities had told her she would face further arrests if she did not leave the country.
Maria Kolesnikova is the last one left in Belarus of three female politicians who joined forces before the August 9th election to challenge the Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
Kolesnikova was detained by masked men right after announcing that she was forming a new political party. During last Sunday’s rally, she tried to enter the presidential palace to talk to the Belarusian leader but was told he would not negotiate with the opposition. An eyewitness reported to Belarus media that she saw masked men take Kolesnikova’s mobile phone and pushed her into a minibus on Monday (7th September) morning. Later on media reported that Kolesnikova was transported to the Ukrainian border and threatened that if she didnt leave the country, she would face imprisonment. She prevented the expelling by tearing up her passport. Together with her lawyer, Koleksnikova is opening a criminal case against KGB and Belarusian Security Forces.
Internet shutdown and attack on media
The IT sector has been repeatedly undermined with the internet shutdowns, as a disruption form against the protesters. Additionally to these, the authorities in Belarus have revoked the accreditation for several journalists working for foreign media. Cases of deported were also recorded.
EU leaders do not recognize the results of the election and have agreed to impose sanctions on Belarus authorities accountable for the violence against protesters. The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have blacklisted Lukashenko and 29 high-ranking officials in his administration.
The strong reaction of “a strong” leader
The Belarus leader has denied accusations by the opposition and Western countries that the vote was rigged. Lukashenko has accused Western nations of interfering, in particular Poland and Lithuania, of trying to impose regime change. On at least two occasions he has been photographed near his residence in Minsk carrying a gun and being surrounded by his heavily armed security personnel.
Join our solidarity campaign:
What you can do:
* take a picture holding a banner where it is written #FreeBelarus;
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* Alongside with the picture, you can write a short solidarity statement.
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