Conflicts & War

Crowds return to Minsk in weekly demonstration against Lukashenko

Moscow, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Minsk for weekly demonstrations against Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday.

According to local media, the majority of the protesters marched peacefully in the direction of the president’s official residence via Independence Avenue in what was the fifth mass protest to rock the eastern European country since the controversial elections of 9 August.

An estimated 150,000 people participated in the march which, like all previous demonstrations, was not authorized by city officials.

Belarus’ growing opposition movement is calling on Lukashenko to step down to make way for a new round of elections.

They also request the release of members of the opposition coordination council who have been detained in recent weeks, including the charismatic Maria Kolesnikova.

Last week Kolesnikova tore her passport up on the border to avoid being expelled to Ukraine. She remains in police custody.

Authorities on Sunday tried to prevent protesters from arriving at the city center by closing off seven metro stations.

Police said they had arrested 250 people in different areas of the city for being in possession of prohibited flags, a reference to the red and white banners that have become a symbol of the opposition.

Others who held placards insulting the president and authorities were also detained.

Police reinforced security in the city center, especially around Lukanshenko’s official residence.

Solidarity protests were taking place Poland and Lithuania.

More than 100 people were detained on Saturday during a women’s march against the government.

The arrests were criticized by Belarus’ opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who went into self-imposed exile in Lithuania after the 9 August elections.

Lukashenko won 80 percent of the votes in that election, according to the electoral commission. The result is considered fraudulent by the opposition and the European Union.

Lukashenko is due to travel to Sochi on Monday to meet with Russian president, Vladimir Putin.EFE-EPA


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