Conflicts & War

Anti-Lukashenko protests return to Minsk

Moscow, 23 Aug (efe-epa).- Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Belarus Sunday in another mass rally against the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused by the opposition of fixing recent elections.

Lukashenko, who has served as president over the former Soviet republic since 1994 and is described by his detractors as Europe’s last dictator, took an 80 percent share of the votes in the 9 August election, according to the official tally, which was dismissed as fraudulent by the opposition and the European Union.

His main rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who stood in for her jailed blogger husband in the race, fled to Lithuania after the results were presented. She is continuing to organize a united opposition committee from the neighboring country.

The focus of Sunday’s protest was Independence Square in the capital, Minsk, where huge crowds of around 200,000 people had gathered by the afternoon, according to organizers.

Around 7,000 people were detained during the first round of protests in the wake of the controversial election, dozens of whom remain in custody or remain otherwise unaccounted for.

This morning Belarusian media reported the death of one protester whose whereabouts had remained undisclosed since 12 August.

Authorities say three people died in protests after the voting. Many of the people protesting in the capital on Sunday were waving the red and white flag that has become a symbol of the opposition.

This time last week opposition supporters staged the largest protest in Belarus’ modern history, prompting the EU to express its solidarity with their call for a democratic transition in the Eastern European nation, which has deep ties with Russia.

Several police dispatches were in place in Minsk by the early hours of the morning, although it is not yet known whether they will be ordered to intervene or break up the march.

Police have been issuing warnings through megaphones, telling the crowd that the gathering was not authorized, to which many in the protest responded with chants of “go away.”

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