Protesters gathered in Minsk and other major urban centers for a second consecutive night of anti-government demonstrations on Friday, June 19. Several hundred people stood on the streets of Minsk in support of President Alexander Lukashenko's critics. Opposition candidates gathered supporters' signatures in Minsk to try and reach the 100,000 signatures required for a candidate to stand in the election. At around 19:00 (local time), police intervened to prevent further signatures from being gathered, and ten people were arrested. Several journalists were also arrested in Minsk amid the demonstrations. Protests were also reported in Mahilyow (Mogilev region) and Homel (Homiel region).
Further protests are likely in the run-up to the election. Associated disruptions to transportation and business are to be expected around demonstration sites.
The latest demonstrations have been sparked by the arrest of an opposition candidate in the presidential election. Viktor Babariko, who is predicted to be the strongest challenger to incumbent president Lukashenko in the presidential election on August 9, was arrested on charges of corruption, theft, and money-laundering on Thursday, June 18. Demonstrations against Lukashenko and his government have been witnessed increasingly as the August election draws closer. Lukashenko has faced criticism for his handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the economic situation, as well as for overzealously cracking down on dissenting voices.
Individuals in Belarus are advised to monitor developments, avoid all demonstrations and political gatherings as a precaution, and anticipate a heightened security presence and localized disruptions to transportation and business around protest sites.
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