Tens of thousands of protesters gather in capital of Belarus

Tens of thousands of protesters gather in capital of Belarus for fourth week of daily demos demanding resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko

  • At least 100,000 rallied in Minsk on Sunday to demand the resignation of Lukashenko – the fourth week of protests since his dubious re-election on August 9 which has been condemned in western Europe
  • Lukashenko, who has been in office since 1994, has been defiant but beleaguered, unable to put down the largest, most sustained wave of protests yet in this Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people
  • Lukashenko claims he’s reached an agreement with Vladimir Putin that Russia will send in security help if asked. But Russia has appeared hesitant to get tangled to deeply in the unrest of its former Soviet enclave 

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital of Belarus on Sunday, beginning a fourth week of daily protests demanding the resignation of the country’s authoritarian president after an election they call rigged gave him a sixth term in office.

The protest at the ‘hero city’ monument honouring Minsk’s suffering and resilience during the Second World War attracted at least 100,000 people, according to a messaging app channel used by the opposition.

Wide protests began after the August 9 presidential election that officials say gave President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide 80% win over his main challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former teacher and the wife of a popular jailed blogger.

Lukashenko, who has been in office since 1994, has been defiant but beleaguered, unable to put down the largest, most sustained wave of protests yet in this Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people. 

A Belarusian opposition supporter kneels in front of riot police officers during a protest in Independence Avenue in Minsk on Sunday

Maria Kolesnikova, one of Belarus’ opposition leaders, center, gestures, during a rally in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday

Law enforcement officers block a street during a rally of opposition supporters protesting against presidential election results near the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus on Sunday

Belarus woman lies on the ground and holds poster ‘I em not afraid’ in front of police during a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus

Law enforcement officers block a street during a rally of opposition supporters protesting against presidential election results near the Independence Palace in Minsk

Police block the road during a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus

Belarusian opposition supporters with old Belarusian national flags rally in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday

Belarus woman speaks with policemen during a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus

Belarusian opposition supporters with an old Belarusian national flags march in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday

He has refused to rerun the election, which both the European Union and the United States have said was not free or fair, and refused offers from Baltic nations to help mediate the situation.

Mr Lukashenko says he has reached an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia will send in security help if asked. But Russia has appeared hesitant to get involved deeply in the Belarus unrest.

Mr Putin and Mr Lukashenko talked by phone on Sunday, but a Kremlin statement gave few details of the conversation, other than noting that Mr Putin had congratulated the Belarusian leader on his 66th birthday.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the election because of concerns about her security, gave a withering acknowledgement of the birthday.

Belarusian opposition supporters with an old Belarusian national flags march in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday

Riot police line block a street to protect against Belarusian opposition supporters rally in the center of Minsk, Belarus, Sunday

Riot police line up to block a street near Independence Square to protect against Belarusian opposition supporters rally in the center of Minsk, Belarus, Sunday

Belarus people attend a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk on Sunday

Belarus people attend a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk on Sunday

A woman holds a poster ‘Your 80 percent are painted with blood’ during a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk on Sunday

Police stand behind a barbed wire as they block the road during a protest rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus, 30 August 2020

People rally against the results of the presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus, 30 August 2020.

Speaking by telephone from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, she said: ‘I wish him to overcome his fears, look truth in the eye, listen to the voice of the people and go away.’

Mr Lukashenko has consistently blamed Western countries for encouraging the protests, and contends that Nato is repositioning forces along Belarus’ western border with the aim of intervening in the unrest – a claim the alliance strongly denies.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry said on Sunday that it was conducting military exercises in the Grodno region, near the borders of Poland and Lithuania, simulating defending against an invasion.

GRODNO, BELARUS – AUGUST 30, 2020: A BTR-82 armored personnel carrier takes part in large-scale tactical drills in the Grodno area in western Belarus

Belarusian opposition supporters with old Belarusian national flags and a poster reading ‘Why haven’t the killers been arrested yet?’ rally in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020

Belarusian opposition supporters with old Belarusian national flags rally in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020

Belarusian opposition supporters with old Belarusian national flags rally in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020

In this video grab taken from a footage provided by Belsat TV via the Associated Press Television, riot police line block a street to protect against a Belarusian opposition supporters rally in the center of Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020

Belarusian opposition supporters with an old Belarusian national flags march in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020

A woman smokes on a terrace of a luxury cafe in central Minsk, near barbed wire and riot police on August 23, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus

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