Belarus election: women form “chains of solidarity” to condemn repression


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Many women wear white as they protest disputed election result and police violence

Women formed human chains in Belarus to condemn the crackdown on protests against the contested elections.

Many were dressed in white and carried flowers as they called for an end to the police brutality.

Unrest erupted after longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential election, in a vote condemned by the EU and the US as neither free nor fair.

Thousands of people have been arrested and at least two have died.

In the latest official figures, the Home Office said police arrested 700 people during Wednesday’s protests, bringing the total to 6,700.

Some detainees were released on Thursday. Crying relatives gathered outside a prison north of the capital, Minsk, in the hope of reuniting with their loved ones or obtaining information about their fate.

Several strikes have been reported at state-owned factories, where workers oppose the violent treatment of protesters.

Hundreds of women formed “chains of solidarity” in Minsk and other cities as protests entered a fifth day. Participants told reporters they wanted a peaceful resolution, as they called for the release of all detained protesters.

It was the second day in a row that women from Minsk had organized such an action.

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Video footage shared on social media shows opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining protesters in Minsk, holding a bouquet of flowers.

She was one of three women who pooled their resources to lead the opposition. The other two have left the country.

Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on polling day while the main opposition candidate in the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was briefly detained on Monday before fleeing to Lithuania.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, posted a video saying that she had made the “very difficult decision” to leave because of her children.

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Media captionSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “Not a single life is worth what is happening now”

The opposition candidate was a stay-at-home mom until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and barred from registering to vote.

She became Mr Lukashenko’s toughest opposition challenge in years, leading large rallies ahead of the vote.

But Mr Lukashenko rejected his candidacy, claiming that a woman could not lead Belarus.

“Our constitution is not for women,” he said earlier this year. “Our society has not matured enough to vote for a woman. This is because, by constitution, the president holds a lot of power. “

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Nobel laureate for literature Svetlana Alexievich accused Belarusian authorities of declaring war on their own people and urged Lukashenko to step down.

The 65-year-old has led the former Soviet country since 1994 and describes opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.

As protests continued on Thursday, some workers staged strikes and walkouts in Minsk, Grodno in the west and Zhodina in the northeast of the capital.

Russian internet giant Yandex said gunmen entered two of its offices in Minsk and prevented employees inside from leaving. They left a few hours later.

Shock in the face of police brutality as testimonies rise

By Olga Ivshina, Russian BBC

The body of evidence of police brutality, both on the streets and inside remand centers, is growing. The detainees include not only opposition activists, but also numerous journalists and accidental passers-by.

One of the released journalists, Nikita Telizhenko of the Russian news site, published a heartbreaking account of three days in prison. Back in Russia, he describes people lying on the floor of a detention center, stacked on top of each other, in a pool of blood and excrement. Forbidden to use the toilet for hours or even to change position.

He said he saw people seriously injured, with broken limbs and severe bruises, not only left without medical help, but even more beaten by the guards.

Telizhenko’s testimony is confirmed by countless posts on social networks – photos, videos, stories. I spoke to an American who was visiting her Belarusian boyfriend in Minsk – he was detained for no apparent reason. Not only did he not protest, but he was sleeping in his bed when the police came to his apartment, broke down the door, and took him away.

What else happened?

Election officials said Lukashenko won 80 percent of the vote on Sunday, but protests erupted amid widespread allegations of vote rigging. The result was condemned by the European Union as “neither free nor fair”.

Hundreds of people have been injured in a police crackdown on protests, some seriously. A BBC crew was attacked by police on Tuesday evening.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of two people.

A protester died Monday during a demonstration in Minsk, the capital. The Belarusian Interior Ministry alleged that an explosive device had detonated in his hand.

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A 25-year-old man also died in the southeastern town of Gomel. Officials said he was jailed for 10 days for taking part in an illegal protest, but died in hospital after becoming ill.

His mother told Radio Free Europe that her son did not take part in any protests and was arrested while going to see his girlfriend. She said he had heart problems and was kept for hours in a police van.

People shouted the words “get out” from their balconies, the same slogan used by protesters on the ground. The police responded by firing rubber bullets.

The United Nations condemned the use of violence by the authorities.

Video footage shared on social media showed former Special Forces officers tossing their uniforms into bins in disgust at the actions of their former colleagues.

“I was proud of the unit I served [in]. Now I am ashamed. Shame on anyone who follows such orders, ”said a former officer.


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