Anti-government protesters have called for a rally in Minsk on Sunday, August 23, to demand the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko. Demonstrators will gather from 14:00 (local time) in Independence Square. Opposition groups have also called for gatherings in other cities across the country. In addition to Lukashenko's departure, protesters are demanding the release of political prisoners and accountability for security forces guilty of alleged acts of torture and murder during recent unrest. The planned protest comes despite Lukashenko's announcement on Monday, August 17, that he was ready to hold new elections and potentially relinquish power following a constitutional referendum. Previous demonstrations in Minsk have attracted thousands of participants.
Further unrest is expected across Belarus in the coming days as the situation has shown little sign of being resolved. Protests may be met with a strong response by security forces, with associated disruptions to transportation and business probable.
Election officials announced on Monday, August 10, that Lukashenko had won 80 percent of the vote in the presidential election held on Sunday, August 9, with the main opposition candidate Svetalna 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 cannon, 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. Tikhanouskaya has called for continued anti-government protests.
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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