Police break up new protests in Belarus as Lukashenko warns of foreign plot

By Andrei Makhovsky MINSK (Reuters) - Police in Belarus arrested demonstrators and journalists on Friday evening to break up new protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, hours after he blamed foreign plotters for fomenting unrest. For the second evening in a row, protesters had formed a long line through the centre of the capital Minsk in solidarity after the jailing of Viktor Babariko, Lukashenko's main rival in August's presidential election. Protests also broke out in several other towns across the eastern European country.

Reuters June 20, 2020 01:11:04 IST
Police break up new protests in Belarus as Lukashenko warns of foreign plot

Police break up new protests in Belarus as Lukashenko warns of foreign plot

By Andrei Makhovsky

MINSK (Reuters) - Police in Belarus arrested demonstrators and journalists on Friday evening to break up new protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, hours after he blamed foreign plotters for fomenting unrest.

For the second evening in a row, protesters had formed a long line through the centre of the capital Minsk in solidarity after the jailing of Viktor Babariko, Lukashenko's main rival in August's presidential election.

Protests also broke out in several other towns across the eastern European country.

Lukashenko has ruled with an iron fist for 26 years, but faces his biggest challenge in years as frustration over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic has combined with grievances over the economy and human rights.

Relations with traditional ally Russia have been strained in recent months as Moscow reduced subsidies that have propped up Lukashenko. But his crackdown on opponents will likely hobble his efforts to mend fences with the West.

The European Union called for the release of Babariko, widely seen as the most potent challenger to Lukashenko.

As criticism of Babariko's arrest grew, Lukashenko said his government had foiled a plot to foment a revolution akin to the street protests in Ukraine in 2014.

He said political forces from "both from the West and from the East" had concentrated their interests in Belarus, and that "certain forces" had intensified their efforts. He did not give details or say which foreign country was involved.

"That was the goal. The masks were torn not only from certain puppets we had here, but also from puppeteers who sit outside Belarus," he said.

Babariko was head Belgazprombank, of the local unit of Russia's Gazprombank , before running for president. A top security official said Babariko was controlled by Russian "puppeteers" and Lukashenko said the bank's money was being used to finance Babariko's campaign. Babariko's campaign team called the allegations against him "an absurdity".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had no plans to intervene. Separately President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko spoke by phone but the Kremlin readout did not mention Babariko's arrest.

Lukashenko's allegations of a foreign plot came after authorities opened a criminal case against Belgazprombank.

On Friday, Lukashenko said the International Monetary Fund was demanding Belarus impose lockdown measures as a condition for loans, but Minsk would not cave in to the demand.

(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky in Minsk; Andrey Kuzmin and Tom Balmforth in Moscow; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry, Giles Elgood and Alex Richardson)

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

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

Guinea president 'captured', govt dissolved, claim army putschists'; attack on presidential palace repulsed, say authorities
World

Guinea president 'captured', govt dissolved, claim army putschists'; attack on presidential palace repulsed, say authorities

Reports suggest that they captured President Alpha Conde and dissolved the government, bust the ground situation remains unclear

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up
News & Analysis

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The price of cryptocurrencies plunged and crypto trading was delayed on Tuesday, a day in which El Salvador ran into snags as the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. Shares of blockchain-related firms also fell as crypto stocks were hit by trading platform outages. But the major focus was on El Salvador, where the government had to temporarily unplug a digital wallet to cope with demand.

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field
News & Analysis

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field

By Joseph White and Sanjana Shivdas (Reuters) -The head of Apple Inc's car project, Doug Field, is going to work for Ford Motor Co to lead the automaker's advanced technology and embedded systems efforts, a hiring coup for Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley.