Belarus once again sees strike mode. Tens of thousands of people have marched through the streets of the Belarusian capital Minsk to demand the resignation of veteran President Alexander Lukashenko, despite a threat by officials to use firearms against protesters.
Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, has been rocked by strikes and weekly street protests since authorities announced Lukashenko, who has ruled in authoritarian fashion since 1994, had secured re-election on August 9 with 80 percent of votes.Mass protests have rocked Belarus since the Aug. 9 presidential election that handed Lukashenko a victory with 80% of the vote. His main challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, got 10%. She and her supporters refused to recognize the results, saying the outcome of the vote was manipulated.
Authorities tried to quell the unrest with mass detentions and police dispersing crowds with truncheons, stun grenades, and water cannons. On Monday, the country’s Interior Ministry threatened to use firearms against the protesters “if need be,” saying that the rallies “have become organized and extremely radical.” However, the protests have continued despite the crackdown. The Interfax news agency put the number of protesters at over 30,000. It said about 50 had been detained by the police, and that the mobile broadband signal had been disrupted in parts of the city.
It also said loud noises that sounded like stun grenades had been heard close to the march. A senior police official said last week that officers would reserve the right to use firearms against demonstrators. Security forces have detained more than 13,000 people since the election, including all significant opposition leaders who have not left the country and clamped down on independent media. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has fled to Lithuania, last week urged Lukashenko to quit by Oct. 25 or face what she said would be nationwide strikes that would paralyze Belarus.