After a sixth consecutive day of protests on Friday, August 14, following the presidential election on Sunday, August 9, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya called for further rallies across the country over the weekend. The exiled leader urged supporters to continue calling for President Alexander Lukashenko to stand down following his controversial re-election. Further unrest and strikes by workers in state factories were witnessed on Friday. Mobile internet services have been cut in some areas, meaning there has been little information confirmed as to the extent of the unrest on Friday, although troops were reportedly deployed to Independence Square in Minsk.
Protests are expected to be held in squares and on major avenues in urban centers across Belarus on Saturday, August 15, and Sunday, August 16. A major protest is planned at 14:00 (local time) on Independence Avenue in Minsk on Sunday. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transport and businesses are expected in the vicinity of protests. Due to the heavy-handed nature of the security forces' response to the unrest thus far, further clashes with protesters are anticipated.
Election officials announced on Monday, August 10, that Lukashenko had won 80 percent of the vote in Sunday's poll, with the main opposition candidate 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 following the election have taken place throughout Belarus, 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. At least two people have been killed and around 6700 people have reportedly been arrested during the unrest, although around 2000 have since been released in a rare sign of concession from the government. After being detained on Monday night, Tikhanouskaya was forced into exile in Lithuania.
Those in Belarus 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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