October 25, 2020 12:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Alexander Lukashenko Epoch Times Europe JoshWho News Mike Pompeo Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya World

KYIV/MOSCOW—Belarusian police used stun grenades against protesters on Sunday as tens of thousands of people headed toward Independence Palace in the capital Minsk demanding that President Alexander Lukashenko resign.

Protesters carrying the red-and-white flags of the Belarusian opposition movement scattered as loud bangs and flashes lit up the city’s streets after nightfall, videos showed.

People attend an opposition rally
People attend an opposition rally
People attend an opposition rally to reject the Belarusian presidential election results in Minsk, on Oct. 25, 2020. (Stringer/Reuters)

The police action came hours before the expiration of an ultimatum set by the opposition: Lukashenko must resign by midnight or face a national strike.

Explosions and white smoke filled residential areas as people hid behind vehicles and ran from police, the videos, shared online by reputable news organizations, showed. Law enforcement confirmed that riot control weapons had been used and detentions had taken place, the TASS and RIA news agencies reported.

Belarusian law enforcement officers and service members block a street
Belarusian law enforcement officers and service members block a street
Belarusian law enforcement officers and service members block a street during an opposition rally to reject the presidential election results in Minsk, on Oct. 25, 2020. (Stringer/Reuters)

The videos could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

Earlier on Sunday, crowds streamed through the capital shouting “strike”, waving flags and beating drums on the 11th straight weekend of mass protests since a disputed election plunged the country into turmoil.

Twelve metro stations were closed, helmeted riot police patrolled the streets, and mobile internet services were disrupted in Minsk. Two journalists were detained ahead of the protest, a local journalists’ association said.

Belarusian law enforcement officers are seen near trucks
Belarusian law enforcement officers are seen near trucks
Belarusian law enforcement officers are seen near trucks during an opposition rally in Minsk, on Oct. 25, 2020. (Stringer/Reuters)

Tens of people were detained and security forces used tear gas in the western town of Lida, the Russian news agency RIA quoted the regional branch of the interior ministry as saying.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century and has shown little inclination to quit, buoyed by loans and the offer of military support from traditional ally Russia.

People attend an opposition rally
People attend an opposition rally
People attend an opposition rally in Minsk, on Oct. 25, 2020. (Stringer/Reuters)

The president’s main opponents have been jailed or fled into exile following the Aug. 9 election, which Lukashenko’s opponents accuse him of rigging to win a sixth straight term. He denies electoral fraud.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, his main electoral challenger, has led calls from exile for a national strike to begin on Monday if Lukashenko refuses to release all political prisoners and resign to make way for a new election.

“Today at 23:59 the term of the People’s Ultimatum will expire, and if the demands are not met, the Belarusians will start a national strike,” she said in a statement.

Lukashenko has signaled that he would ignore the ultimatum.

The United States, the European Union, Britain, and Canada have imposed sanctions against a string of senior officials in Belarus accused of fraud and human rights abuses in the wake of the presidential election.

Lukashenko has accused Western countries of meddling in the internal affairs of Belarus and trying to instigate a violent uprising against him.

In a call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, he said Belarus and Russia were ready to respond jointly to external threats, Belarusian state television reported.

By Matthias Williams and Polina Ivanova

Click Here to Subscribe to our Google News Feed Click Follow so you will see our feeds on your smart devices!

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments