Displaying items by tag: Lukashenko

Tens of thousands have again taken to the streets in Belarus, facing off against riot police to protest against President Alexander Lukashenko.

A huge police presence cordoned off areas such as Independence Square in the capital, Minsk, and the interior ministry reported at least 140 arrests. Protesters chanted "disgrace" and "leave" in standoffs with police.

Belarus has been gripped by mass protests since the 9 August election, widely believed to have been rigged. Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, has said he has no intention of stepping down and denies electoral fraud.

What happened on the streets?

It was very tense, with large numbers of riot police facing off against lines of protesters carrying balloons, flowers and red-and-white opposition flags.

Reporting at the height of the protests, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Minsk said there were far more police than on the past two Sundays when similar rallies were held. Some protesters lay down on the road to try to prevent riot police from moving, with others chanting "disgrace" and "go away".

Some mocked Mr Lukashenko on his 66th birthday, carrying a cockroach puppet and chanting "happy birthday, you rat".  Many streets were blocked off by police to try to prevent people reaching the main protest areas.

One large group of protesters marched towards Mr Lukashenko's residence at the Independence Palace, which was heavily protected by riot police and water cannon vehicles. Armoured personnel carriers were seen moving in the area, although reports later said they were also seen leaving and that the crowds were dispersing largely peacefully. Other smaller protests were reported in towns such as Brest and Grodno.

Journalists continue to face issues reporting the unrest. On Saturday, the authorities withdrew the accreditation of 17 reporters, most of them Belarusian citizens who have been reporting for foreign media outlets. Two journalists with the BBC's Russian service were among those affected. In a statement, the BBC said it condemned "in the strongest possible terms this stifling of independent journalism". On Sunday, Germany said it was summoning the Belarus ambassador over the revocations of accreditation.

Another Sunday. Another big protest -  But this one felt different from previous weekends.

Having cordoned off Independence Square in the centre of Minsk, police made a move against some of the protesters. Following scuffles, suddenly there were riot police everywhere: banging their shields on the ground as a warning, and then pushing demonstrators further down the road.

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Mr Lukashenko on his birthday and reportedly invited him to visit Moscow. It appeared to be the latest sign of Kremlin support for a president who has not always been seen positively by Russia.   But Mr Putin has said he has formed a police reserve force to intervene in Belarus if necessary, although "it won't be used until the situation gets out of control".

More info and comment: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-53966004

Pray for democratic and transparent elections to take place soon

Pray that the brutality being meted out by the police and prison staff in Belarus will stop

Pray for those who have disappeared, allegedly taken by the police; pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing fear and anxiety over their treatment and fate

Pray that Russia does not unwarrantedly interfere in this situation

Thursday, 20 August 2020 21:09

Belarus: winds of change?

Belarus is known as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’. After being elected on an anti-corruption platform President Lukashenko ruled for 26 years, betraying his mandate and the trust of his people. When citizens cast their ballots recently they hoped their vote would move the country forward. But Lukashenko claimed an improbable landslide victory over his opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Sviatlana was forced to leave Belarus, and her husband is believed to be under arrest. Her return could inject fresh energy into the protests and create a character for people to rally behind as temporary national leader. She said she would release political prisoners, return Belarus to a pre-Lukashenko constitution, and hold fair elections without Lukashenko in six months. Thousands have been peacefully protesting for Lukashenko to go. The EU has not recognised the election results and is drawing up new sanctions lists against Belarus. Russia is preparing for a controlled succession there and protecting its influence over its long-time client state.

Published in Europe