Despite the repression, the protest is not running out of steam. Like every Sunday since the presidential election of August 9, tens of thousands of Belarusians demonstrated Sunday October 4 against the fraudulent re-election of their president, Alexander Lukashenko. The march was dedicated, this time, to “Political prisoners”.
As every Sunday, the Belarusian authorities have deployed riot forces and armored vehicles in large numbers. “A water cannon was used in Minsk”even said Belarusian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Tchemodanova, adding that the police had also carried out “Arrests”, without specifying the number.
“Don’t make mistakes! “
Authorities on Friday revoked all foreign media credentials, making it difficult to cover events in the country. Mobile internet access was also limited, as was public transport, to hamper mobilization. Many Belarusians have received messages from the Interior Ministry warning them against participating in unauthorized gatherings. “Don’t make mistakes! “, could we read there.
So far, however, the crowds have continued to take to the streets. Hundreds of demonstrators, leaders of political movements, trade unions and journalists have been arrested since August on charges of organizing or participating in the protest.
Belarusian human rights center Viasna says Belarus now has 77 “Political prisoners”. In Minsk, incidents are generally few in number but dozens of people are nevertheless arrested every Sunday. Elsewhere in the country, major demonstrations are also taking place.
Exile or prison
According to independent Belarusian online media Tut.by, three journalists were arrested in Vitebsk and two in Grodno on Sunday. Police interventions are, however, much less violent than in August, when dozens of people were injured and thousands more arrested.
Most of the opposition leaders, for their part, have been forced into exile, like Alexander Lukashenko’s presidential competitor Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, or imprisoned, like her close ally Maria Kolesnikova. “It is scary that a large number of people (…) are still in Belarusian prisons”said Sunday Mme Tikhanovskaya on Telegram. “Our task is to obtain their freedom”, she stressed.
The European Union (EU) on Friday sanctioned around 40 Belarusian officials implicated in the crackdown, including the interior minister. Belarus announced in the wake of establishing its own list of European officials sanctioned, without revealing the names of those concerned.
Russia, Alexander Lukashenko’s main ally, called European decisions ’“Admission of weakness”, ensuring that it would apply the retaliatory measures decided by Belarus. The United States on the same day announced economic sanctions against eight Belarusian officials.
Reconciliation with Putin
For her part, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, exiled in Lithuania, is increasing the number of meetings with Western officials. She met French President Emmanuel Macron on September 29 and is due to see Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday. Double-edged support for a movement that insists on its popular character, while Moscow and Minsk accuse the West of fomenting unrest, and Mr. Lukashenko refuses any dialogue with opponents.
After months of Russian-Belarusian tensions, Alexander Lukashenko seems determined to draw closer to Russia, which he accused again this summer of seeking to vassalize his country. Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin posted their ” trust “, Friday, during a telephone interview, in the “Next resolution” of ” problems “ post-election elections in Belarus. The Belarusian president promised constitutional reform, but no concrete proposals were made.