A large security presence has been reported on Sunday, August 23, ahead of pro-opposition demonstrations planned in Minsk. Reports on social media outlets indicate that anti-government demonstrators have begun gathering and marching in the capital. A demonstration has been planned for 14:00 (local time) at Independence Square and at least four metro stations nearby have been closed. Additional protests are expected in the capital, and counter-demonstrations are also possible. Associated protests across the country are also likely.
Previous rallies have been met with a strong response by security forces and resulted in clashes with protesters and arrests. Associated disruptions to transportation and business are likely in the near term.
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 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. Tikhanouskaya subsequently went into exile in Lithuania. Lukashenko announced on Monday, August 17, that he was ready to potentially relinquish power following a constitutional referendum; however, this has failed to stem the unrest.
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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