News Alerts

13 Sep 2020 | 01:45 PM UTC

Belarus: Hundreds arrested in anti-government protests in Minsk September 13 /update 42

Belarus News Alert

Hundreds arrested in anti-government protests in Minsk September 13; avoid areas of protest

TIMEFRAME expected from 9/13/2020, 12:00 AM until 9/15/2020, 11:59 PM (Europe/Minsk). COUNTRY/REGION Belarus, Minsk

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Event

The Belarusian Interior Ministry reported that more than 250 people have thus far been arrested in large protests in Minsk on Sunday, September 13. An estimated 100,000 people have gathered around Independence Square to protest August's disputed presidential election which recorded President Alexander Lukashenko winning by a landslide. As a response, security forces have reportedly sealed off the square with barbed wire in efforts to disperse the crowd. Law enforcement agencies warned protesters that they will face arrest for taking part in unauthorized events and criminal responsibility for organizing mass riots. The latest unrest follows a protest on Saturday that was attended by thousands in the capital. 

 Associated disruption to transportation and business is expected during the unrest. Further associated demonstrations in other urban centers are likely in the near term.

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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