- President Alexander Lukashenko, after calling on the army to protect the country.
- "I am so proud of Belarusians now because after 26 years of fear they are ready to defend their rights," said Tikhanovskaya.
- Lukashenko replaced the resigning members of the state media editorial board with journalists from Russia.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered to demonstrate against the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, two weeks after he returned to power through a disputed election. Demonstrators gathered on Independence Square in the capital, Minsk, in defiance of government threats, continuing their protest of Lukashenko’s rule.
Today Sunday, Aug, 23, 2020, the opposition in Belarus is organizing huge demonstrations to pressure President Alexander Lukashenko, after calling on the army to protect the country’s territorial integrity, and accusing the organizers of the protests of being mobilized “from outside.”
And the head of state, 65 years old, who has been in power for 26 years, accusing NATO of conducting a maneuver on the borders of his country.
Its opponents hope to repeat the feat they achieved on August 16, when more than a hundred thousand people took to the streets of Minsk carrying the opposition’s white and red flags, to denounce Lukashenko’s re-election on August 9, and the brutal suppression of the demonstrations that followed.
Thousands marched toward Minsk, holding the white and red opposition flag that was the first flag of Belarus after its independence from the Soviet Union from 1991 to 1995.
Meanwhile, thousands of others gathered in the center of the capital chanting slogans calling for freedom and the downfall of Lukashenko. Agence France-Presse correspondents said that riot police were deployed in large numbers, alongside water trucks.
Before the start of the demonstration at 11:00 GMT, the Interior Ministry warned of “unauthorized” gatherings and called for “rationality.” In turn, the Ministry of Defense warned that in the event of disturbances near the World War II monument, those responsible “will not be facing the police, but the army.”
“I am so proud of Belarusians now because after 26 years of fear they are ready to defend their rights,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said in Vilnius, where she fled to after an election on August 9 in which she claims victory.
“I call them to continue, not to stop because it’s really important now to continue to be united in the struggle for the rights,” she said, speaking on the eve of mass protests expected in Belarus on Sunday
An increasingly popular uprising against Lukashenko
“They have to understand that we are not a protest movement. We are people of Belarus and we are a majority and we will not step away.
We are not afraid of them anymore,” Tikhanovskaya told AFP. In addition to the Minsk demonstration, a human chain of conduct will extend to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania bordering Belarus, and where Yekhanovskaya has taken refuge.
After two weeks of protests, this mass demonstration will confirm that the opposition can force a confrontation on Lukashenko over time, in order to force him to negotiate his departure.
The Belarusian president remains steadfast, relying on the loyalty of the armed forces, police, and security services, despite the registration of defections in the media and government institutions.
Supporters of the president intend to demonstrate by organizing a demonstration by cars on Sunday. The president took the opportunity to inspect military units deployed in Grodno, in the west of the country, near the border with Poland, on Saturday, to denounce the recent protests, accusing those in charge them of receiving support from Western countries.
On Saturday, NATO denied the deployment of any “reinforcements” at the border with Belarus, stressing that the allegations in this context were “baseless.”
Before the presidential elections, the Belarusian president accused Russia of secretly working to topple him, but changed his position upside down following the protests, announcing the Kremlin’s support for his struggle in the face of Western attempts to destabilize.
Faced with an unprecedented protest movement in his country and after winning the presidential election with 80 percent of the vote, Lukashenko announced Friday that he would “solve the problem” of the protest movement.
On Thursday, the Belarusian authorities launched legal prosecutions on charges of “compromising national security” against the “coordination council” set up by the opposition this week with the aim of encouraging political transition after the elections.
Lukashenko also threatened retaliation against workers who took part in the strike to challenge his authority, by laying off workers or closing production lines.His plan appears to have paid off, as this week the number of strikers in government factories, the basis of the Belarusian economic and social system, decreased.
The president also said he had replaced the resigning members of the state media editorial board with journalists from Russia. For its part, Moscow expressed its support for Lukashenko despite the sour relations in the past few months and warned against any form of Western intervention.
The European Union intends to impose sanctions on the authority in Belarus. And European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell warned of the dangers of Belarus becoming a “second Ukraine”, saying it was worth dealing with Lukashenko in an interview published by the Spanish newspaper “El Pais” on Sunday.