News Alerts

26 Sep 2020 | 05:13 PM UTC

Belarus: Scores arrested in anti-government protests in Minsk on September 26 /update 50

Belarus News Alert

Scores arrested in anti-government protests in Minsk on September 26; avoid all demonstrations

TIMEFRAME expected from 9/26/2020, 12:00 AM until 10/1/2020, 11:59 PM (Europe/Minsk). COUNTRY/REGION Belarus

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Event

Scores of anti-government protesters have been arrested in demonstrations in Minsk on Saturday, September 26. The arrests occurred as thousands of people marched through the city demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko and the release of political prisoners following a disputed presidential election in August. During the protest, police blocked off the center of the capital and arrested over 60 demonstrators and heightened security measures are in place throughout the capital.

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.

Associated disruption to transportation and business is expected during the course of the protest. 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. 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.

The abrupt inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko's sixth term as president on September 23 provoked calls for nationwide demonstrations. In Minsk, hundreds of demonstrators were detained by security forces who used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds who had blocked traffic on Independence Avenue. Opposition figure, Pavel Latushko, also urged Belarusians to engage in indefinite civil disobedience following the inauguration.

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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