People’s ultimatum expires – more than 100,000 Belarusians defy the military

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Even if the Belarusian government tries desperately to prevent the Sunday protests, an enormous crowd is gathering again in the capital Minsk. A large number of the police are on site. Meanwhile, civil rights activist Tichanovskaya is mobilizing for a general strike. More than 100,000 people protested against ruler Alexander Lukashenko on the eleventh Sunday in a row in Belarus, despite a massive police and military presence. People flocked from different directions in the center of Minsk to the „stele“, a place in memory of the Second World War. „Long live Belarus!“ They chanted. Many carried the historic white-red-white flag, as the opposition Internet portal Strana dlja Schisni (A country to live) showed. A flag was hoisted on a lantern.

Security forces in the center of the capital Minsk.

The Wesna Human Rights Center reported around 60 arrests in various cities in the country where there were also protests. In the city of Lida, authorities confirmed the use of tear gas. Hundreds of police and military had cordoned off the center of the capital Minsk. Armed uniformed men with balaclavas took up positions on the street Prospect of the Victors and the Independence Prospectus to prevent the Sunday demonstration. The authorities closed all metro stations in the center to prevent the influx of people from the districts. They also switched off the high-speed mobile internet so that people could not meet to protest. Since the controversial presidential election on August 9, there have been repeated protests in the ex-Soviet republic because Lukashenko, after 26 years in power, was declared the winner with around 80 percent of the vote. The democracy movement claims victory for the civil rights activist Svetlana Tichanowskaja. The EU supports Lukashenko’s opponents and no longer recognizes the long-time ruler as president. The 66-year-old receives support from Russia.

Encouragement from exile

„Today is a special day,“ said civil rights activist Tichanowskaya in her exile in the EU on a live broadcast. On Sunday, their people’s ultimatum to Lukashenko expired. The democracy movement calls for an end to police violence, the release of all political prisoners and the resignation of Lukashenko and a new election. Although some members of the opposition have been released from prison, more concessions are not in sight. Tichanovskaya therefore urged people to take part in a nationwide general strike this Monday or simply to stay at home. „The way will not be easy.“ The fight against Lukashenko needs strength and perseverance, she stressed. Public service employees are repeatedly threatened with dismissal if they oppose Lukashenko. Analysts doubt that Tichanovskaya can achieve a lot because of her stay abroad. The opponents of the power apparatus, however, see themselves not least inspired by the award of the Sakharov Human Rights Prize by the EU Parliament last Thursday.

Belarus suitable as a host? World association „cannot be blackmailed“

In a surprise call to Lukashenko on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded the release of political prisoners, including a US citizen. At the same time, he emphasized that the USA supported the democracy movement. The US embassy in Minsk issued a security warning in view of the police violence. An initiative by the power apparatus – as has already happened several times – to bring thousands of Lukashenko’s supporters to the capital by buses and special trains and at the expense of the taxpayer caused amusement in Belarusian opposition circles. Lukashenko ultimately had to cancel the action. He said the expected influx of 200,000 to 300,000 people in Minsk was so great that the capital was threatened with a traffic collapse. According to independent media reports, the real reason for the cancellation was a massive refusal of people to travel to Minsk. Accordingly, bus drivers also refused. Many also cited the danger posed by the corona virus.

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