As Belarus enters its third evening of protests against the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, the European Union denounced a presidential election on Tuesday (August 11th) “Neither free nor fair” and threatened to take sanctions against those responsible for the violence, in a statement approved by the twenty-seven member states.
“The elections were neither free nor fair”, write the 27 in a press release, denouncing a “Disproportionate and unacceptable violence by state authorities” and demanding an end to the repression and “Immediate and unconditional release of all detained persons”. “We will conduct an in-depth review of the EU’s relations with Belarus. This could include, among other things, taking action against those responsible for the violence observed, the unjustified arrests and the falsification of election results “, they add.
As of Tuesday evening, riot control forces were still deployed in numbers in central Minsk, the capital, where hundreds of protesters gathered, but the situation remained rather calm, according to an AFP journalist. At the same time, several photographers covering the new protests have had their USB drives confiscated and their cameras damaged by law enforcement, according to an AFP photographer.
Opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa refugee in Lithuania
The demonstrators were separated from their muse on Tuesday, opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya having announced that she had left the country to seek refuge in Lithuania. Mme Tikhanovskaya, 37, said he took ” alone “ this “Very difficult decision”, after two days of demonstrations. Lithuania, a member of the European Union and NATO, has belonged to the Soviet Union and has frequently given refuge to Belarusian or Russian opposition figures.
“I know that many will condemn me, many will understand me, many will hate me”, said Mme Tikhanovskaya, who quickly became a rival to the head of state for the presidential race. She spoke of her two children, 5 and 10, already sent abroad for fear of pressure. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said that Mr.me Tikhanovskaya was ” safe “ with her children.
Soon after, Belarusian state agency Belta released further undated footage showing the opponent reading a statement calling for “Respect for the law” and not to demonstrate. His allies immediately said the video was recorded ” under pressure “, probably Monday evening, when she was detained for several hours at the headquarters of the electoral commission, where she had come to file a complaint.
Calls to strike
Demonstrations against the election results giving incumbent Lukashenko the winner with 80.08% of the vote were violently suppressed Sunday and Monday evening by riot forces, leaving one dead. Police reported 3,000 arrests on Sunday evening and 2,000 on Monday evening, including the editor of opposition media Nacha Niva, Egor Martinovich. The health ministry said 200 injured were hospitalized.
The opponent, to whom the electoral commission attributed 10.09%, did not take part in the protests in order to guard against “ Provocation “ of power and possible arrest. On Tuesday, calls for a general strike were circulating on social networks. According to Belarusian opposition media, several local companies took part, although independent unions refused to call for fear of reprisals from the government.
Abroad, the European Commission, Paris, Berlin, London and Washington had earlier condemned the crackdown and called on Minsk to restrain. For their part, Moscow and Beijing congratulated President Lukashenko, who had nevertheless accused the Kremlin of wanting to vassalize his country.