Alertes de sécurité

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17 sept. 2020 | 23h14 UTC

Belarus: Authorities close borders with Poland and Lithuania September 17 /update 43

Belarus Alerte de sécurité

Authorities close borders with Poland and Lithuania on September 17; heed official instructions

TIMEFRAME expected from 17/9/2020, 12h00 until 1/10/2020, 11h59 (Europe/Minsk). COUNTRY/REGION Belarus

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Event

President Alexander Lukashenko announced on Thursday, September 17, that the country's borders with Poland and Lithuania will be closed until further notice. Lukashenko further announced that stricter border controls would also be introduced on the border with Ukraine. The announcement comes amid sustained unrest calling for the resignation of Lukashenko in Minsk and other major cities since the August 9 election. Lukashenko has accused Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic of fueling the unrest. Border officials in both Poland and Lithuania have denied that the borders have been closed. 

Further restrictions may be introduced by authorities as unrest is likely to continue. Associated disruption to transportation and business is expected during the unrest.

Context 

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 Svetlana 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 cannons, batons, and concussion grenades in attempts to disperse crowds. Tikhanouskaya subsequently went into exile in Lithuania. Lukashenko announced on August 17 that he was ready to potentially relinquish power following a constitutional referendum; however, this has failed to stem the unrest. The recent promise of military support from Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemingly emboldened Lukashenko, which may lead to a new wave of harsh crackdowns on opposition demonstrations in Minsk and other urban centers.

Advice

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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