3,000 protesters detained as Belarus hands Lukashenko landslide win
August 10 2020 10:53 AM
Law enforcement officers march during clashes with opposition supporters after polls closed at the p
Law enforcement officers march during clashes with opposition supporters after polls closed at the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus

Dpa/Moscow

Belarusian authorities have detained about 3,000 people at protests throughout the country, the Interior Ministry said in comments carried by Russian media on Monday, following a presidential election that handed a landslide to incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.

Early official results show Lukashenko heading for about 80 per cent of the vote, although the outcome has been rejected by his main rival and protesters accuse the vote of being rigged.

Out of the 3,000, ‘about 1,000 were in Minsk and more than 2,000 were in other regions,’ the ministry said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Protests were reported at polling stations and in central streets in 33 localities on Sunday night, it said. More than 50 civilians and 39 law enforcement officers were injured, it said.

The ministry said no one was killed, although Belarus has been experiencing widespread internet problems in recent days, and the ministry's website was not functioning at press time.

The Belarusian human rights organization Viasna (Spring) said earlier that at least one person hda been killed in clashes between protesters and police.

The deceased had been hit by a government vehicle in central Minsk, on Victors Avenue, and died of a brain injury, Viasna said.

Lukashenko justified the police crackdown, saying the authorities were making an ‘adequate response’ to unrest after the vote.

Referring to neighbouring Ukraine's 2014 revolution, Lukashenko said: ‘I warned there will be no Maidan, no matter how much someone wants it.’  ‘We will not allow the country to be torn apart,’ he said, according to comments carried by Belarusian state news agency BelTA.

According to the official preliminary results Lukashenko won 80.23 per cent of the vote, while his main rival won 9.9 per cent.

Runner-up opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had earlier refused to accept state media projections that gave her a similarly limited vote share.

Reaction in Europe has focussed on the violent crackdown.

In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Neighbourhood Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said ‘the election night was marred with disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters.’  Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Belarus' western neighbour Poland, called on the presidents of the European Commission and European Council to hold an emergency EU summit on the situation in Belarus.

Lukashenko, 65, has led the former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe, between Russia and EU member Poland, for a quarter century, tolerating little dissent.

Two of Lukashenko's strongest political challengers, including Tikhanovskaya's husband, were jailed in the run-up to the election.

The voting was not independently observed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) because it had not received a timely invitation. The OSCE had repeatedly criticized previous Belarusian elections for failing to comply with democratic standards.

Lidia Yermoshina, head of the Belarusian Election Commission, announced on Monday that the other three candidates received fewer than 2 per cent of the vote. Turnout was put at 84 per cent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement on Monday congratulating Lukashenko on his victory. Russia is Belarus' closest ally, a position reaffirmed by Lukashenko just before the election.


Last updated: August 10 2020 02:28 PM


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