The demonstration of the Belarusian people’s ultimatum met with a violent crackdown world news

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Belarusian riot police launched yet another violent crackdown in Minsk on Sunday evening, throwing stun grenades at crowds of peaceful protesters, chasing people through courtyards and making arrests as they tried to cut back on the 11th Sunday consecutive protests in the country.At least 100,000 people marched through the center of the Belarusian capital earlier in the day to give what they called a “people’s ultimatum” to Alexander Lukashenko: to step down or face a nationwide strike that could cripple the economy.

Long columns of protesters, wrapped in the traditional red-white Belarusian flag that has become the symbol of the protests, marched through the city center shouting “Resign!” “And” strike! ”

As usual, authorities shut down mobile internet in central Minsk, shut down metro stations, and placed riot police lines at key sites. Military and riot vehicles were positioned throughout the center, and hooded, shield-wielding officers stood at nearly every intersection, but they only attacked the crowds in the evening.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Initially replacing her husband, a popular blogger banned from running and imprisoned by the authorities, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya became the main opposition candidate to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko as part of an all-female opposition campaign by herself, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo.

She fled to neighboring Lithuania in early August, from where she posted a video indicating that she had faced an ultimatum involving her family.

In September, during a video appearance before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, she vowed that the country’s movement for democratic change would not give up, even in the face of continued intimidation and violence from the regime. Lukashenko.

Veronika Tsepkalo

A former Microsoft employee, she led her husband Valery Tsepkalo’s campaign before he was forced to flee with the couple’s children to Moscow ahead of the elections. After campaigning alongside Tikhanovskaya and Kolesnikova, she joined him there on election day.

Apart from a one-day stopover in Belarus, when she said she had been threatened with prison, she remained in exile in Moscow. She told a radio journalist in early August: “I think I can do more by being in Moscow, being free and being able to speak on behalf of the Belarusian people to the international community.”

Maria Kolesnikova

Kolesnikova headed the presidential campaign of another opposition politician, Viktor Babariko, also excluded from the elections and imprisoned by the government. She was the only one of three women to remain in Belarus following the disputed August elections.

On September 7, it was reported that she was abducted by unidentified masked men on the street in the capital, Minsk. Kolesnikova’s press assistant, Anton Rodnenkov, confirmed her kidnapping to the media, then reportedly passed out around 40 minutes later. According to a Ukrainian minister, Kolesnikova then tore up her passport at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border in order to thwart deportation attempts. She is currently detained in Minsk.

She had announced on August 31 that she was forming a new political party, Ensemble.


Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich / EPA

The current wave of discontent was sparked by Lukashenko who declared a landslide victory in the August presidential elections which were widely seen as rigged, and then ruthlessly cracked down on those who came to protest.

At the first large August rallies in response to the crackdown, euphoria and disbelief combined to create intoxicating excitement that Lukashenko’s days were surely numbered. The authoritarian leader, who has ruled for 26 years, has since made it clear that he has no intention of relinquishing power without a fight.

A number of opposition leaders have been forced to leave the country or arrested over the past two months, and authorities have threatened to use live ammunition on protesters. Sunday’s crowd was still largely vibrant , with several groups of drummers providing a musical thud. accompaniment and many people flashing signs of victory.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who opposed Lukashenko after her husband’s imprisonment, was able to act as a lightning rod for voters at the protest, but was forced to flee to neighboring Lithuania the day after the vote, receiving only 10 % of the official count. Tikhanovskaya declared herself the legitimately elected leader of Vilnius and said she wanted to oversee a period of transition before holding new free elections.

“Today at 23:59, the duration 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 on Sunday. Few in Minsk, however, expect the strike to succeed. The August and September strikes drew some support from workers in the large factories, but were quickly crushed.

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