Moscow Protesters and police clashed for a third night overnight on Wednesday as demonstrators expressed anger over the re-election of longtime Alexander Lukashenko in a vote Sunday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “was not held in a free and fair. “
Hundreds of white-clad women gathered in cities across the country to call for an end to the brutal crackdown by government forces on protesters, which saw tear gas, batons, stun grenades, rubber bullets and even even live rounds used in crowds, according to BBC News. Some of the women in the picture were thriving on the ground and holding hands in “solidarity chains”;.
About 6,000 people have been arrested since Sunday, with nearly 200 in need of medical help, according to media reports quoting Belarusian officials. A BBC News team was attacked by police. At least one person was killed after an explosive device exploded in his hand.
Officially, the main candidate to run against Lukashenko – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – received only 10% of the vote, although her supporters say the mother of the 37-year-old stay at home was the real winner.
Tikhanovskaya became the face of the Belarusian opposition, along with two other women – Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova – after her husband, who was planning to run himself, was arrested before he could register as a candidate.
Lukashenko, referred to as “Europe’s last dictator”, dismissed Tikhanovskaya as a candidate, calling her a “poor little girl” and saying she was managed by foreign “puppet masters”, but thousands turned to her campaign rallies.
Kolesnikova said Lukashenko’s remarks played a role in inciting popular anger.
“Fifty-five percent of voters in Belarus are women and you can not imagine how this has angered them,” she told Russian-language media.
“God forbid you will face the kind of choice I faced”
After the results were announced on Monday, Tikhanovskaya, whose husband remains in jail, went to file a complaint with the Central Election Commission office and was held in custody for several hours. She then released a number of cryptographic videos, which appear to have been filmed under pressure.
In the first, she read a statement urging Belarusians to stop protesting so as not to “risk your life”.
In another, she said, “God forbid you will face the kind of choice I faced.”
Later that day, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister announced that Tikhanovskaya had traveled there. An associate said that, as part of a deal to see her campaign manager released from custody, she was escorted from Belarus by authorities, BBC News reported.
“When everyone around you and your family is hostage, it is probably very difficult not to be under pressure and not to make statements under pressure,” Kolesnikova told reporters on Tuesday.
“Neither free nor fair”
“We want the people of Belarus to have the freedoms they demand,” Pompeo said on Wednesday.
He called on the Belarussian government to stop its violent attacks on demonstrators and said that the United States would “continue to talk” about the dangers to Belarus’ freedom.
“We call for non-violent protesters to be protected and not harmed,” Pompeo said.
Lukashenko accused foreign forces of blocking protests and blocking the internet, which fell across the country during and after the election.
EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell also criticized the violence against protesters in Belarus, calling the election “neither free nor fair”.
“We call on the Belarusian authorities to release all detainees immediately and unconditionally. Furthermore, credible reports by domestic observers indicate that the election process did not meet the international standards expected by an OSCE participating State,” Borrell said. . “The people of Belarus deserve better.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said EU foreign ministers would meet on Friday to discuss possible sanctions against Belarus, according to BBC News.
The results of Sunday’s election mean that Lukashenko will serve his sixth consecutive term as president.