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Elections in Belarus: Women form ‘solidarity chains’ to condemn attacks



Women rally in support of detained and injured protesters in Belarus

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EPA

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Many women are dressed in white as they protest the controversial election result and police violence

Women have formed human chains in Belarus to condemn an ​​attack on protesters over the disputed election.

Many dressed in white and carrying flowers as they sought to end police brutality.

Riots erupted after longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of Sunday̵

7;s presidential election, in a vote condemned by the EU and the US as neither free nor fair.

Thousands of people have been arrested and at least two have died.

In the latest official figures, the interior ministry said police had arrested 700 people during Wednesday’s protests, bringing the total to 6,700.

Some detainees were released on Thursday. Relatives in tears have gathered outside a prison north of the capital Minsk, hoping to be reunited with their loved ones or for information on their whereabouts.

Several strikes have been reported in state-owned factories, where workers oppose the violent treatment of protesters.

Hundreds of women formed “solidarity chains” in Minsk and other cities as the protests passed into their fifth day. Participants told reporters they wanted a peaceful solution, as they demanded the release of all detained protesters.

It was the second day in a row that women in Minsk had organized such an action.

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Video footage shared on social media showed opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining the female protests in Minsk, holding a wreath.

She was one of three women who rallied their resources to lead the opposition. The other two have left the country.

Veronika Tsepkalo left Belarus on election day as the main opposition candidate in the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was arrested on Monday shortly before fleeing to Lithuania.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, released a video saying she made the “very difficult decision” to leave because of her children.

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Media titleSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “No life is worth what is happening now”

The opposition candidate was a stay-at-home mother until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for voting.

It became Mr Lukashenko’s toughest opposition challenge in years, leading large rallies to the brink of voting.

But Mr Lukashenko rejected her offer, saying a woman could not lead Belarus.

“Our constitution is not for women,” he said earlier this year. “Our society is not mature enough to vote for a woman. This is due to the fact that with the constitution the president has a lot of power.”

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Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich accused the Belarussian authorities of declaring war on their own people and urged Mr Lukashenko to resign.

At age 65, he has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994 and has described opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from outside.

As protests continued on Thursday, some workers staged strikes and marches in Minsk, Grodno in the west and Zhodina in the north-east of the capital.

Russian Internet giant Yandex said gunmen had entered its two offices in Minsk and detained employees inside the checkout. They left a few hours later.

Shock at police brutality as the evidence grows

By Olga Ivshina, BBC Russian

The body of evidence of police brutality, both on the streets and inside detention facilities, is growing. The detainees include not only opposition activists, but also many journalists and bystanders.

One of the released journalists, Nikita Telizhenko of the Russian news site Znak.com, published a disturbing three-day account inside the prison. Now back in Russia, he describes people lying on the floor of a detention center, piled on top of each other, in a pool of blood and feces. You are not allowed to use the toilet for hours on end or even change position.

He says he has seen people seriously injured, with broken limbs and severe bloating, not only was left without medical help, but was beaten and beaten by more guards.

Telizhenko’s testimony is confirmed by countless posts on social media – photos, videos, stories. I spoke to an American woman who was visiting her Belarusian boyfriend in Minsk – he was arrested for no apparent reason. Not only was he not protesting, but he was asleep in bed when police came to his apartment, knocked on the door, and took him away.

What else happened?

Election officials said Mr Lukashenko won 80% of the vote Sunday, but protests erupted amid widespread allegations of vote rigging. The result was condemned by the European Union as “neither free nor fair”.

Hundreds of people were injured in a police clash in protest, some seriously. A BBC crew was attacked by police on Tuesday evening.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of two people.

A demonstrator died during a protest in the capital Minsk on Monday. The Belarusian Interior Ministry claimed that an explosive device had gone into possession.

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Also a 25-year-old man died in the southeastern city of Gomel. Officials said he was in jail for 10 days for participating in an illegal protest, but died at the hospital after falling ill.

His mother told Radio Free Europe that her son had not taken part in any protests and had been arrested while he was about to see his girlfriend. She said he had heart problems and was held for hours in a police van.

People shouted the words “get out” of their balconies, the same slogan used by protesters on the ground. Police responded by firing rubber bullets.

The United Nations has condemned the use of violence by the authorities.

Video footage shared on social media has shown former special forces officers throwing their uniforms in baskets in disgust at the actions of their former colleagues.

“I was proud of the unit I served [in]. Now I’m ashamed. “Shame on all those who follow such orders,” said a former officer.




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