Minsk (dpa) – Thousands of people peacefully protested in Belarus against President Alexander Lukashenko, who clung to his office. At the demonstration on Sunday, the security forces were once again brutal in some cases.
Videos in the Telegram news channel showed masked men in uniform beating people to the ground. There were many arrests. The Wesna Human Rights Center initially listed the names of more than 330 people arrested. Police spoke of about 250 arrests in the evening. Last Sunday there were around 300, the week before around 1000.
The biggest actions took place in the capital Minsk. There, protesters first gathered in their residential areas and then formed larger protest marches. Many carried the historic white, red, and white flags when it snowed.
Videos showed security forces following protesters into the courtyards of housing complexes. Again and again people were towed in minibuses. The media also reported the use of tear gas and anesthetic grenades. People in other cities also called for Lukashenko’s resignation.
As on previous Sundays, hundreds of uniformed men from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Army were in Minsk. Videos showed prisoner trucks, water cannons and other heavy equipment in the streets of the capital. Security forces cordon off large areas with metal bars.
In addition, six metro stations in Minsk were blocked. Mobile internet was also largely turned off. The authorities wanted to make it more difficult to meet meetings. There were also reports that some neighborhoods had no electricity. The opposition had this time officially announced the action as the “march of the neighbors”. It was the 16th Sunday of protest in a row.
Belarus has been in a serious domestic political crisis since the presidential elections on 9 August. The 66-year-old Lukashenko was declared the winner with 80.1 percent of the vote. The EU no longer recognizes him as president. The opposition sees civil rights activist Svetlana Tichanovskaya as the real winner.
The civil rights activist, who fled to the EU country of Lithuania, said in advance in a video message that the people in Belarus “had walked a difficult road together”. They had seen terrible violence and inhumanity and, unlike the “regime”, remained themselves.
Imprisoned opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova told news magazine “Der Spiegel” through her lawyer that she was concerned about the welfare of the people of Belarus. “No desire to stay in power can justify such unprecedented levels of violence.” Peaceful civilians were beaten, tortured, wounded and murdered for their views, said the 38-year-old, who lived in Stuttgart for a long time. “We live in a police state.”
For weeks, the democracy movement has been calling for Lukashenko’s resignation, an end to police violence against peaceful protesters, the release of all political prisoners and new elections. The long-term president made it clear several times that he would not give up his power for now. However, he promised a new constitution. He said no time for it.