Despite renewed threats from head of state Alexander Lukashenko, the protests for new elections continue. The repression also continues.
Several thousand people demonstrated on Sunday afternoon with a “March for a new Belarus” in the center of the Belarusian capital Minsk against the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, for new elections and the release of all political prisoners. Just half an hour after the start of the demonstration, the portal of the Belarusian human rights organization Charter 97 reported a number of participants of well over 200,000 people. At 2 p.m., militiamen had called the rally participants by megaphone to leave the square. “Get away from her,” echoed them.
“I’m thrilled,” says engineer Alla. “As far as I can see, there are demonstrators everywhere in the center.” That morning she had feared that fewer people would come this time than the last demonstration. After all, rain had been announced. She also feared that the threats by the head of state Lukashenko, who had also no longer ruled out the imposition of an exceptional right, could deter many from participating.
The police did not intervene at the time of going to press, but showed their presence in full riot gear. Many police cars were demonstratively parked in the immediate vicinity of the central Independence Square.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in other cities in Belarus. In Gomel, the second largest city in Belarus, the central Lenin Square was full of demonstrators. In Mosyr, thousands had gathered under a banner that read “We are no longer afraid”. Thousands had also gathered in Grodno and Schodino. Everywhere the demonstrations waved white and red flags. This flag was the national flag until Lukashenko took office and is now the symbol of the opposition.
The opposition in Belarus has been demonstrating against the president and the election fraud of August 9, 2020 for 15 days. The last few days have been dominated by human chains with women in white clothing in the cities. “Flowers instead of bullets” was one of the mottos of these human chains. Their tactic was to only stand on certain streets for a short time and to change locations as soon as the police showed up. “The changes in Belarus have a feminine face,” one of the organizers told the Russian portal lenta.ru.
Meanwhile, the rhetoric of President Lukashenko and representatives of his government towards the demonstrators is getting tougher. Lukashenko said on Saturday that he had put Belarus troops on high alert. In the event of a violation of the western national borders, the Internet newspaper gazeta.ru, which publishes in Moscow, quotes the Belarusian head of state to the Ministry of Defense, one should “react without warning”.
The readiness to put the troops on alert was his hardest decision in the last 26 years, according to gazeta.ru. Finally, NATO troops moved towards Belarus, Lukashenko continued. In addition to the domestic policy factor, a foreign policy factor now also plays a role, “namely a serious movement of NATO troops into the immediate vicinity of Belarus”. At the same time, he rejected the mediation efforts of French President Macron. He couldn’t even cope with his “yellow jackets”, he just wanted to distract from his own problems.
And Defense Minister Viktor Chrenin warned in a video message of military interference in front of the Minsk obelisk, which has meanwhile become a symbol of the demonstrating opposition: “If public order and tranquility in these places are threatened, you will no longer be with the militia, but rather of the army.” At the same time, the defense minister announced maneuvers by the army at the western borders between August 28 and 31 because of the “new situation on the Belarusian borders”.
The body of 28-year-old Nikita Kravtsov was discovered on Saturday, hanged from a tree. He has been missing for ten days. His wife Elena is certain that it wasn’t suicide. Meanwhile, Belarusian human rights activists report that 70 people have disappeared without a trace since the arrests after election Sunday.
New arrests have since become known. Belarusian police arrested several anarchist activists in Grodno on Saturday. They had previously participated in an unauthorized rally against election fraud and for the release of political prisoners.