News Alerts

07 Sep 2020 | 09:43 AM UTC

Belarus: Protest leader detained in Minsk September 7 /update 39

Belarus News Alert

Protest leader detained by unidentified people in Minsk on September 7; protests likely

TIMEFRAME expected from 9/7/2020, 12:00 AM until 9/9/2020, 11:59 PM (Europe/Minsk). COUNTRY/REGION Belarus, Minsk

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Event

A protest leader, Maria Kolesnikova, was detained by unidentified individuals in Minsk on Monday, September 7. Police are currently investigating reports that Kolesnikova was abducted after witnesses stated they saw her being placed inside a minivan. Police later confirmed that they had not detained her. Kolesnikova had been involved in Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's opposition campaign during the August election and had recently announced the formation of a new party that would operate separately from the established opposition transitional council.

Given Kolesnikova's status as an opposition figure, further protests following this development are possible. Protests may be met with a strong response by security forces, with associated disruptions to transportation and business probable.

Context 

Election officials announced that Lukashenko had won 80 percent of the vote in the presidential election held on August 9, with the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya gaining 9.9 percent. Lukashenko faced few challenges to his sixth term as president, with his main rivals Valery Tsepkalo and Viktor Babariko being barred from standing. However, the run-up to the election saw increased political tensions and opposition protest activity. Opposition groups have denounced the election results as fraudulent.

Protests have taken place throughout Belarus since the election result was announced, with security forces blocking access to a number of cities as clashes with protesters were reported. Security forces have deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, batons, and concussion grenades in attempts to disperse crowds. Tikhanouskaya subsequently went into exile in Lithuania. Lukashenko announced on August 17 that he was ready to potentially relinquish power following a constitutional referendum; however, this has failed to stem the unrest. The recent promise of military support from Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemingly emboldened Lukashenko, which may lead to a new wave of harsh crackdowns on opposition demonstrations in Minsk and other urban centers.

Advice

Those in Belarus, particularly in Minsk, are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments, and refrain from discussing politically sensitive topics in public or on social media.

 

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