Protesters formed human chains and marched through the streets of Belarus carrying flowers yesterday in anger at a crackdown by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko that has prompted the European Union to consider new sanctions against Minsk.
Security forces have clashed with protesters for three consecutive nights after Lukashenko claimed a landslide re-election victory in a vote on Sunday that his opponents say was rigged.
Police detained around 6,000.
Lukashenko has sought better relations with the West amid strained relations with traditional ally Russia.
Brussels lifted sanctions, imposed over Lukashenko’s human rights record, in 2016, but will weigh new measures this week.
Lithuania, Poland and Latvia jointly offered to mediate between Lukashenko and the protesters, and threatened sanctions at a European or national level if the offer was declined.
A former Soviet collective farm manager, the 65-year-old Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century but faces increasing anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a sluggish economy and human rights.
Women dressed in white formed a human chain outside a covered food market in Minsk, holding flowers in the air and chanting slogans, while a crowd also gathered outside a prison where protesters were being kept.
The Belarusian interior ministry said 51 protesters and 14 police officers had been injured in clashes on Tuesday night.
One person was injured.
Lukashenko has accused the protesters of being in cahoots with foreign backers from Russia and elsewhere to topple his government, and compared them to criminal gangs.
“The core of all these so-called protesters today comprises people with a criminal history and the unemployed,” he said at a government meeting yesterday.
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