Human chains and roadblocks in 5th day of Belarus protests

By Bernardo Suarez Indart

Moscow, Aug 13 (efe-epa).- Human chains, roadblocks and demonstrations were staged on Thursday in Belarus in the fifth day of action against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Two people have died and 300 have been injured in rallies that have gripped the country since the long-time leader was declared the winner of presidential elections on 9 August.

Activists formed human chains of solidarity against police violence in various parts of Minsk and other Belarusian cities and were supported by motorists with their horns, according to images posted on social media.

Drivers on some roads slowed down to create traffic jams, while in several cities marches and demonstrations were held.

About 2,000 people gathered in marches on Independence Avenue in the centre of Minsk, according to Russian agency RIA Novosti.

On Wednesday night another 700 people were detained for taking part in unauthorized mass actions, bringing the total number of protesters arrested since the elections to almost 7,000.

This included 64 journalists, both Belarusian and foreign, some of whom have already been released, the Belarusian Association of Journalists reported.

Ending police violence against the population has become one of the main demands of the protests and they have been joined by citizens outraged at the brutality of the anti-riot forces.

“In my opinion, power has declared war on its own people,” Belarusian writer and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich told Radio Liberty.

“Because we could never have imagined this behavior from riot police,” she added.

She said her message to Lukashenko would be: “Go, before it is too late, before you throw the people off a terrible cliff, the cliff of civil war.”

A general strike has spread to major companies in the country, according to Telegram network Nexta which posted videos of workers gathered on picket lines.

Spontaneous demonstrations took place at several workplaces in the Belarusian capital including at least two hospitals in the city, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

The situation in Belarus has caused concern beyond its borders and in particular with the European Union.

Josep Borrell, EU minister for foreign affairs called on Belarusian authorities to “stop the repression against the Belarus people and open negotiations with the wider society”.

“Over the last months, the Belarusians have clearly shown that they long for democracy and respect for human rights,” he wrote in a blog.

“A substantial political change is a precondition for further development of the relations between the EU and Belarus.”

A meeting of EU ministers will take place on Friday by videolink and it is expected they will discuss the situation in the country.

Russian foreign minister Maria Zakharova denounced “unprecedented external pressures” on Minsk while expressing concern about “public disturbances” by anti-government protesters.

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