Opposition groups are planning to stage a rally in Minsk on Thursday, July 30, ahead of the presidential election on August 9. Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on supporters to rally at People's Friendship Park at 18:00 (local time). The presidential candidates were summoned to a meeting with the Central Election Commission on Thursday, where they were reportedly warned of potential provocations occurring at rallies. The meeting comes following the detention of suspected mercenaries, and up to 200 mercenaries are believed to remain at large. President Lukashenko has previously warned that they may aim to disrupt campaign events. Increased security will be implemented at rallies including metal detectors and metal fencing. Further gatherings are likely to occur in the run-up to the election, with reports suggesting that well-attended rallies could occur in Baranovichi, Brest, and Grodno between Saturday, August 1, and Sunday, August 2.
Official campaigning, as well as further opposition gatherings, are expected in the coming days amid a heightened security presence.
Political tensions have increased after a number of arrests of opposition figures in recent months and the rejection of two main opposition candidates - Valery Tsepkalo and Viktor Babariko - applications to run by the Central Election Commission on July 14. Opposition demonstrations have been witnessed in Minsk and other urban centers nationwide. Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya has emerged as the leading opposition challenger to President Alexander Lukashenko, and thousands attended her first campaign rally on Sunday, July 19.
Individuals in Belarus are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all large public gatherings as a precaution, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments, and refrain from discussing political topics in public or on social media.
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