Lots of arrests in Minsk: Sunday of protest in Belarus ends in violence


The President of Belarus is holding on to power with all his might. Lukashenko has been brutally beaten down by security forces during peaceful protests in the capital Minsk. They use tear gas and stun grenades against the demonstrators and again hundreds of people are arrested.
Thousands of people in Belarus have peacefully protested against President Alexander Lukashenko, who has clung to his office since the controversial election in August. At the Sunday demonstration, security forces were once again brutal in some cases. Videos in the news channel Telegram showed masked uniformed men beating people on the ground. The Wesna Human Rights Center first listed the names of more than 280 people arrested. The police spoke of around 250 arrests in the evening. Last Sunday there were around 300, the week before around 1000.

The biggest actions took place in the capital Minsk. There, demonstrators first gathered in their residential areas and then formed larger protest marches. Many wore the historic white, red and white flags when it snowed. Videos could be seen how security forces followed protesters into the courtyards of residential complexes. Again and again people were dragged into minibuses. The media also reported on the use of tear gas and stun grenades. People in other cities also called for Lukashenko’s resignation.

As on the previous Sundays, hundreds of uniformed men from the Ministry of the Interior and the army were out and about in Minsk. Videos showed prisoner trucks, water cannons and other heavy equipment on the streets of the capital. Security forces cordoned off large spaces with metal bars. In addition, six metro stations in Minsk were blocked. The mobile internet was also largely switched off. The authorities wanted to make it more difficult for people to meet at meetings. There were also reports that some neighborhoods were without electricity. The opposition officially announced the action this time as the “march of the neighbors”. It was the 16th Sunday of protest in a row.

Kolesnikova: “We live in a police state”

Belarus has been in a serious domestic political crisis since the presidential election on August 9th. The 66-year-old Lukashenko had been declared the winner with 80.1 percent of the votes. The EU no longer recognizes him as president. The opposition sees civil rights activist Svetlana Tichanovskaya as the real winner. The civil rights activist, who fled to the EU country Lithuania, said in advance in a video message that the people in Belarus had “walked a difficult path together”. They saw terrible violence and inhumanity and, in contrast to the “regime”, remained themselves.

The imprisoned opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova told the “Spiegel” through her lawyer that she was concerned for the welfare of the people in Belarus. “No desire to stay in power can justify such unprecedented levels of violence.” Peaceful citizens were beaten, tortured, injured and killed because of their views, said the 38-year-old, who lived in Stuttgart for a long time. “We live in a police state.”

The democracy movement has been calling for Lukashenko’s resignation for weeks, an end to police violence against peaceful demonstrators, the release of all political prisoners and new elections. The long-term president made it clear several times that he did not want to give up his power for the time being. However, he promised a new constitution. He didn’t say a time for it.

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