Thousands March Again In Belarus To Call For Lukashenka’s Resignation

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

(Article text ©2020 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – MINSK, Sept. 20, 2020 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/thousands-gather-again-in-belarus-to-march-against-lukashenka/30848518.html)

Thousands of opposition supporters marched in central Minsk on September 20 for a 43rd day, a day after thousands of women attended a march demanding the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during which hundreds were arrested.

Authorities brought armored military trucks and barbed wire into central Minsk ahead of the march in the capital and at various locations across the country.

Belarusian opposition news sites and activists posted video and photos of a convoy of military trucks and vehicles with rolls of barbed wire driving into the center ahead of the demonstration.

Police detained more than 10 protesters in central Minsk, Russia’s TASS news agency reported, citing Belarusian police.

The protesters announced their intention to march to the Supreme Court of Belarus, where they say they will carry placards on which the names of “candidates for the people’s tribunal” will be displayed, including the security forces who took part in dispersing the protests.

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo, adapted from image at usembassy.govAfter the Supreme Court, the protesters said they again will head to Lukashenka’s residence.

Huge protests challenging the results of an August 9 presidential election that declared Lukashenka the landslide winner have swept across Belarus over the past month.

Thousands of people have been detained and beaten by police while nearly all the key leaders of the opposition have been forced to leave the country or detained in a widening crackdown.

Several thousand women marched in central Minsk on September 19, briefly scuffling with riot police who then blocked their path.

Black uniformed riot police swiftly forced hundreds of women, who had stood with linked hands, into police vans.

Vyasna, a human rights organization in Belarus, said some 400 women were arrested during the march.

The number of those arrested was about three times as high as at the protests a week ago, when masked uniformed men used brutal violence against the peaceful demonstrators for the first time.

The demonstration was the latest women’s march calling for Lukashenka, who has been in power for 26 years, to resign after what the opposition and the West have called a rigged election.

Women shouted, “Shame!” as police forced protesters into vans, after warning that the street protests were not authorized, and openly threatening violence.

“We won’t forget! We won’t forgive!” shouted the women, who were carrying red-and-white flags and banners, a symbol of the opposition that has been banned by the authorities.

Others chanted, “Long live Belarus!” and, “Shame!”

Drivers passing by sounded their horns in solidarity with the protesters.

Many of Belarus’s most prominent opposition leaders are women, including exiled presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and detained members of the Coordination Council like Maryya Kalesnikava and Lilia Vlasova.

On September 18, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution submitted by the European Union to launch closer monitoring of rights violations in Belarus amid a crackdown on protesters calling for Lukashenka to resign.

The UN move came a day after the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution refusing to recognize Lukashenka as president of Belarus once his current term expires in November, rejecting the results of the August 9 election.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Interfax