more than 600 people were arrested, including a rising opposition figure

Tens of thousands of Belarusians believed in the threat of power and demonstrated on Sunday in Minsk and other cities in the country to condemn the controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko. Police arrested more than 600 people, including opponent Maria Kolesnikova.

Massive arrests. Belarussian police on Monday reported 633 arrests during a large-scale opposition demonstration on Sunday (September 6) to protest the controversial re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, the biggest attack since early August.

Another arrest that symbolizes an intensification of the authorities’ repression, the opponent Maria Kolesnikova, one of the only important people in the protest movement who chose not to go into exile abroad.

According to testimonies gathered by her political allies, the opponent was taken in a vehicle on Monday morning by strangers and no longer answers her phone. She is a member of the opposition’s ‘coordination council’, against which the authorities have taken legal action for “threats to national security”.

Protest in Belarus: “We see more and more police without uniforms”

Record audience

Sunday’s protest drew a record mass of over 100,000 in Minsk for the fourth weekend in a row, despite an impressive deployment of law enforcement and military forces in the capital.

“A total of 633 people were arrested yesterday [dimanche] for violations of the law on mass events, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding that 363 of them remained in custody pending the court’s review of their cases.

On Sunday, pictures had shown men wearing hoods in civilian clothes and armed with batons circulating in the city center and chasing protesters. Other protests took place in many cities across the country, including Grodno and Brest, in the western part of the country.

Brutal oppression

Alexandre Loukachenko, 66, including 26 at the helm of the country, continues to exclude all dialogue and seeks support from Moscow. Far from backing down, authorities last week stepped up the arrest in response to student mobilization.

The authorities’ repressive response was also directed at Belarusian journalists, of whom about 20 were arrested, while several others working for foreign media, including AFP, had their accreditation revoked without explanation.

The repression had been particularly brutal in the first days after the election on 9 August. At least three people were killed, dozens injured and more than 7,000 arrested during the first demonstrations. Many cases of torture and ill-treatment had also been documented.

A “western plot”

Since then, there have been fewer arrests, but the government, on the other hand, has increased pressure on striking workers or opposition faces, many of whom have taken refuge abroad for fear of being arrested. of the movement, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa.

Another person in the movement, Olga Kovalkova, said on Saturday that she found refuge in Poland after being threatened by Belarusian intelligence services.

Alexander Lukashenko, who before the election did not have harsh enough words to condemn the attempts to “destabilize” Moscow, now condemns a Western “conspiracy” and does everything in his power to get closer to Russia, his closest ally and economic partner.

Russia has stepped up its support with a visit to Minsk on Thursday for its Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustine, the first trip at this level since the start of the crisis.

Europeans, for their part, rejected the results of the presidential election on August 9 and are preparing sanctions against senior Belarusian officials. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have already declared Alexander Lukashenko and 29 people linked to his power persona non grata.

With AFP