In Belarus, uniformed men in balaclavas began arresting opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko during the sixth consecutive Sunday demonstration. On Sunday, the emergency services captured many peaceful protesters in the center of the capital Minsk and forced them into prison cars.
Hundreds of police and army were deployed to prevent another mass protest against “Europe’s last dictator”, as opponents Lukashenko call it.
People poured into the center on foot from different directions. Soldiers in combat uniforms armed with assault rifles stood in the Palace of the Republic, a local correspondent for the German news agency reported. Troops of the militia, as they are called in Belarus, and the military also took up positions in the side streets of the Independence prospectus. As on previous Sundays, the strongest contingent of emergency services was in the presidential palace.
The 66-year-old Lukashenko had recently shown himself there twice with a Kalashnikov to prevent a storming of the palace. However, the protests are always peaceful. Authorities closed downtown metro stations on Sunday to prevent an influx of people. The mobile internet did not work either. Despite these restrictions and threatening landscapes, observers say 150,000 people gathered in the city alone last Sunday.
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Protests against Lukashenko also broke out in other cities, including Grodno, Gomel, Vitebsk and Chodino. “It’s worth fighting for freedom. Don’t be afraid to be free! Reported imprisoned opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova.
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She had led the protests against Lukashenko before being kidnapped two weeks ago and then arrested. The 38-year-old can face up to five years in prison for endangering national security. Kolesnikova dismissed this as absurd. But she said she had no regrets and would do everything again.
Since the presidential elections on August 9, there have been daily protests in Belarus. Lukashenko was declared the election winner after 26 years in office with 80.1 percent of the vote. However, the opposition considers Tichanovskaya to be the real winner. (dpa)