100,000 Take to Streets of Belarus Protesting Dictator’s Rigged ‘Election’

MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 16: President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, speaks at a pro-Lukashenko rally on August 16, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus. There have been daily demonstrations in the Belarusian capital and elsewhere in the country after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 9th election that critics allege …
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Belarus authorities detained two members of opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s Coordination Council in Minsk on Monday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

Police detained top Tsikhanouskaya aid Volha Kovalkova and strike organizer Syarhey Dyleuski early Monday morning outside of the Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ) factory, the Coordination Council said. Authorities accused the two council members of attempting to organize an unauthorized protest rally at the factory.

Officials told the Coordination Council that two of its members were detained as part of an “administrative” case against them and that they would likely be fined, Kovalkova’s associate, Dzyanis Sadouski, told RFE/RL.

Authorities also summoned opposition Coordination Council member Lilia Vlasova, an attorney, to the headquarters of the Belarusian Investigative Committee in the capital, Minsk, for questioning on Monday, state-run BelTA news agency reported.

The detentions and summons come one day after 100,000 people took to the streets of Minsk on Sunday in a massive demonstration against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

The rally was the latest in over two weeks of protest against Lukashenko following his disputed victory in an August 9 presidential election. Dissidents say that the state election commission rigged the election results to give Lukashenko — who has ruled over Belarus as its first and only president for 26 years — a sixth consecutive term. Supporters of his top opposition candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskay, took to the streets to protest the vote in demonstrations that have continued and grown since. Belarus security forces have cracked down on protesters with excessive force, detaining thousands. According to RFE/RL, the Belarusian army issued “fresh warnings” to protesters over the weekend that their ongoing demonstrations would be met with state resistance.

Last week, Tsikhanouskay supporters formed an opposition Coordination Council to “oversee efforts for a peaceful transition of power.” The creation of the council was immediately condemned by Belarus Prosecutor General Alexander Konyuk as unconstitutional.

“The creation and activities of such a council are aimed at seizing power,” Konyuk said in a video statement on August 20, adding that authorities had launched an official investigation into “calls for actions aimed at undermining national security.” On August 21, authorities summoned Dyleuski and Tsikhanouskaya’s lawyer, Maksim Znak, to the headquarters of the Belarusian Investigative Committee in Minsk for questioning as part of the official criminal investigation.

“That move came after Znak on August 21 filed a complaint with the Belarusian Supreme Court calling for the election results be ruled invalid amid widespread allegations that the vote count was fraudulent,” RFE/RL noted.

Opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya fled to neighboring Lithuania shortly after protests erupted on August 9, citing fears for her children’s safety. Tsikhanouskaya has received tremendous support from the Lithuanian government and people as she continues to lead Belarus’s opposition movement virtually through video speeches.

On Sunday, Lithuanians formed a human chain spanning nearly 20 miles from the capital, Vilnius, to the Belarus border “in a show of support for protesters in their neighboring country who are calling for the end of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s rule,” RFE/RL reported. An estimated 50,000 people participated in the human chain, including Lithuanian President Gitanas Naused, who said he was “pleased to join so many people in a demonstration of unity with people of Belarus.”

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