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23 Sep 2020 | 09:22 PM UTC

Belarus: Riot police fire water cannon at protesters in Minsk September 23 /update 48

Belarus News Alert

Riot police fire water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters in Minsk on September 23; avoid all demonstrations as a precaution

TIMEFRAME expected from 9/23/2020, 12:00 AM until 10/1/2020, 11:59 PM (Europe/Minsk). COUNTRY/REGION Belarus, Minsk

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Belarusian security forces have detained a number of demonstrators and fired water cannon and tear gas in efforts to disperse crowds gathered in Minsk on Wednesday, September 23, to denounce the abrupt inauguration of veteran President Alexander Lukashenko for his sixth term as president. Opposition groups called for protests to occur in Minsk, and other major cities across the country. Activists began gathering in small groups earlier in the day, outside of universities, and around the center of the city, congregating along Independence Avenue. Some protesters formed human chains, blocking roads and disrupting traffic. Clashes and scuffles were reported between security forces and protesters, and several people were reportedly injured after water cannon were fired. The number of detained protesters is not yet known. Media sources suggest that the protest action and subsequent police response is ongoing at this time. Unconfirmed media sources indicate that unknown blasts have been heard in the city. 

Clashes are likely to continue in the immediate term in Minsk. Opposition groups called for protests to occur from 18:00 (local time) in urban centers on Wednesday and therefore unrest is also possible in other cities, including Brest, Gomel, Grodno, Lida, and Vitebsk.

Opposition groups have called for marches across the country from 14:00 (local time) on Sunday, September 27, as part of a "general offensive" of anti-government unrest. Opposition figure, Pavel Latushko, also urged Belarusians to engage in indefinite civil disobedience following the inauguration. The demonstrations are likely to be met with a strong response from security forces, with associated disruptions to transportation and business.


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. The promise of military support from Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemingly emboldened Lukashenko and has seen a new wave of arrests during opposition demonstrations in Minsk and other urban centers.


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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