‘We Just Want Him to Leave’: Protests Persist Towards Belarus’s Leader


MINSK, Belarus — 1 day right after President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus promised to crush with an iron fist the protests that have broken out considering the fact that his re-election this month, tens of 1000’s of folks took to the streets of the capital, Minsk, on Sunday to demonstrate their determination to force him out of workplace.

Soon after a week of rallies and publicity stunts in help of Mr. Lukashenko, who has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic, considering the fact that 1994, several anticipated the protests towards him to ebb. But by late Sunday afternoon, a sea of folks had filled the most important Independence Avenue in central Minsk, blocking all targeted traffic there and on side streets.

Some estimates place the amount of demonstrators at nicely in excess of a hundred,000, in what appeared to be a repeat of a equivalent rally a week earlier.

Even though Mr. Lukashenko declared a landslide victory and 80 % of the vote in the Aug. 9 election, protesters and global bodies, which includes the European Union, have referred to as it fraudulent. The most important opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, also declared victory and fled to neighboring Lithuania out of concern for her security.

Original protests in excess of the effects had been met with a violent crackdown by Mr. Lukashenko’s robust law enforcement apparatus, which includes beatings and mass detentions. No arrests or clashes had been reported on Sunday, in spite of the presence of riot police vans parked close to the demonstrations, even though Mr. Lukashenko advised a rally of supporters in the city of Grodno this weekend that protesters had right up until Monday to calm down.

Numerous at Sunday’s protest had been wrapped in Belarus’s standard white-and-red flag, which grew to become an opposition symbol right after Mr. Lukashenko replaced it with a additional Soviet-searching emblem quickly right after coming to electrical power. A couple of came with the a single utilized by Mr. Lukashenko’s supporters — a bid to demonstrate that the nation is united in a want to see him gone from workplace.

“I does not matter what flag it is, we just want him to depart,” explained Darya O. Rolya, 28, an accountant.

It was unclear how the protesters could accomplish that aim, with Mr. Lukashenko acquiring indicated repeatedly that he has no intention of succumbing to stress from the streets.

“We had elections,” he advised a crowd of staff final Monday. “Until you destroy me, there will not be any additional elections.”

More than the previous week, Mr. Lukashenko pushed to rally his supporters all around the flag. He created a flurry of statements about an imminent invasion from the West and an inner conspiracy to destabilize Belarus. He accused protesters of remaining towards Russia — a crucial ally — and referred to as them “rats” and “trash.” On Sunday, some protesters waved the Russian flag to demonstrate that they do not want their nation to flip away from Moscow.

Some of Mr. Lukashenko’s assertions appeared directed at the consideration of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who is leery of any anti-Russian protests in former Soviet republics. On Saturday, Mr. Lukashenko thanked Mr. Putin and referred to as him a buddy, a single day right after confirming acquiring invited various Russian journalists to substitute the Belarusian ones who resigned from state-run information media retailers this month in protest in excess of censorship.

Some protesters explained that they had attained a major feat by exceeding the turnouts at Mr. Lukashenko’s rallies, but that it would be difficult to place additional stress on the president.

1 of them, Aleksandr I. Potekhin, explained the protests essential a leader.

“By itself, a crowd of folks are not able to accomplish considerably,” explained Mr. Potekhin, thirty, a development engineer. “I really feel that some thing additional radical is essential to accomplish our aims, but folks are afraid to do that.”

Numerous Minsk factory staff turned out on Sunday but explained they had been below elevated stress to refrain from the strikes that have been staged at state-run factories as protests have continued.

“This scenario forces us Belarusians to unite,” explained Igor Y. Andryushko, 37, a employee at Minsk Tractor Functions, a single of the most important web sites of the employee protests. “I really do not want it to get a violent flip. I assume anything will finish peacefully.”

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