At least 100,000 Belarus protesters flood streets to demand end of Lukashenko

By Katya Golubkova and Tom Balmforth MOSCOW (Reuters) - At least 100,000 Belarusian protesters took to the streets of Minsk on Sunday in one of the biggest demonstrations yet against President Alexander Lukashenko after he claimed a landslide victory in an election his opponents say was rigged. As public anger continued to build against Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation for 26 years, Moscow offered him support by saying it would send paratroopers to Belarus for 'Slavic Brotherhood' joint drills. A wave of protests has swept Belarus since the Aug.

Reuters September 14, 2020 00:11:04 IST
At least 100,000 Belarus protesters flood streets to demand end of Lukashenko

At least 100000 Belarus protesters flood streets to demand end of Lukashenko

By Katya Golubkova and Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) - At least 100,000 Belarusian protesters took to the streets of Minsk on Sunday in one of the biggest demonstrations yet against President Alexander Lukashenko after he claimed a landslide victory in an election his opponents say was rigged.

As public anger continued to build against Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation for 26 years, Moscow offered him support by saying it would send paratroopers to Belarus for "Slavic Brotherhood" joint drills.

A wave of protests has swept Belarus since the Aug. 9 presidential election, which demonstrators say was actually won by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Key opposition figures have since either been jailed or fled the country, with Tsikhanouskaya now in Lithuania.

Lukashenko denies the election was rigged and has said foreign powers are behind the protests.

A vast column protesters marched through the capital Minsk towards a government district on Sunday, chanting "long live Belarus" and "you're a rat," a taunt that has frequently been used against Lukashenko during demonstrations.

They came to a halt and chanted "fascists" as hundreds of riot police with shields blocked off the road. Meanwhile in the city of Brest, police used water cannons on protesters, according to the Nexta Live channel.

Police said they had detained about 250 people in Minsk.

The atmosphere was tense, with a large police presence in parts of the capital, and some central areas sealed off with barbed wire, including Oktyabrskaya Square and Independence Square - common focus points of anti-government rallies .

The Interfax Russian news agency reported that shots had been fired into the air to warn off protesters in an area of Minsk where the Belarusian leadership lives.

An interior ministry official denied that any shots were fired in the air.

RUSSIAN PARATROOPERS

The unrest comes as Lukashenko, in power since 1994, prepares to travel to Russia on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow, a neighbour and traditional ally, has stepped up support, offering to potentially restructure Belarusian debt, and providing banking liquidity. It has also said Russian riot police could be made available if needed.

On Sunday, Russia's defence ministry said it would send paratroopers from its elite Pskov division to Belarus for the joint drills starting on Monday and running till Sept. 25, the TASS state news agency reported.

On the streets of Minsk, some critics of Lukashenko expressed hope that the sheer size of Sunday's protests would undermine the Belarusian leader and make it difficult for Putin to back him openly.

"We have to show with this march that he (Lukashenko) doesn't control the country, that he is not in a position to speak on behalf of Belarusians," said Gennady, 35, a logistics worker who declined to give his surname.

(Writing by Katya Golubkova and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Pravin Char)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.