Tens of thousands rally against Belarus president in 'people's inauguration'

Nellie Chapman
September 27, 2020

Several metro stations in central Minsk were closed before the protest, AFP journalists reported, and the Palace of Independence, Lukashenko's residence, was heavily guarded by riot police and barriers.

© Provided by Associated Press Riot police detain a protester during an opposition rally to protest the presidential inauguration in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

The election and Lukashenko's defiance of the protesters have come under strong criticism from the West, and Tsikhanouskaya this month urged the United Nations to send monitors to Belarus.

Some called the demonstration a "people's inauguration" of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko's primary challenger who left into exile after theAug 9 election that Lukashenko's challengers state was blatantly rigged to hand Lukashenko a 6th term.

Tens of thousands of protesters including prominent athletes, drummers and a choir marched through Minsk despite rain but the column was visibly smaller compared to previous weekend protests against Alexander Lukashenko.

Gomel, which is populated by more than 500,000 people, is one of many cities in Belarus where protests are taking place on Sunday.

Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory over Lukashenko in the election and has taken shelter in neighbouring Lithuania, said she supported the demonstrators.

On Thursday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK government was preparing to impose sanctions against Belarus, based on alleged human rights violations committed by Lukashenko's government.

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"We came to celebrate the people's inauguration of the people's president", said Alexander, a 30-year-old logistics worker, while protesting in Minsk.

Police detained 150 people during protests on Saturday, Russia's RIA news agency quoted the interior ministry as saying.

The embattled leader has launched a brutal crackdown against the protesters, with an estimated 12 000 people arrested - drawing condemnation from the West, but support from Moscow.

"We are witnessing a power crisis in Belarus with an authoritarian administration that is not able to accept the logic of democracy", French President Emmanuel Macron told le Journal du Dimanche in comments published on Sunday.

"It's clear he has to go", Macron told French weekly the Journal du Dimanche ahead of a trip to European Union states Lithuania and Latvia, which border Belarus. "It is clear that Lukashenko has to go".

Russian Federation is Lukashenko's biggest financial and diplomatic backer, and President Vladimir Putin has promised Belarus law enforcement backup if needed, as well as a $1.5-billion loan.

Demonstrators are calling for the 66-year-old strongman to resign, fresh elections, the release of all political prisoners and an investigation into police brutality.

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