Foreign

Belarus Opposition Holds Mass Rally in Minsk Despite Ban

Opposition supporters in Belarus are holding a mass rally in the capital Minsk, two weeks after a disputed election gave President Alexander Lukashenko another term in office.

Tens of thousands filled the central square despite heavy police presence.

The protesters say Mr Lukashenko stole the election and want him to resign.

The president has vowed to crush the ongoing unrest and previously blamed the dissent on unnamed “foreign-backed revolutionaries”.

Recent protests were met with a crackdown in which at least four people were killed. Demonstrators said they had been tortured in prisons.

According to official results, Mr Lukashenko – who has ruled Belarus for 26 years – won more than 80% of the vote in the 9 August election and opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10%.

There were no independent observers and the opposition alleges massive vote rigging.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who was forced to flee to neighbouring Lithuania the day after the election, vowed to “stand till the end” in the protests.

What is happening in Minsk?

Tens of thousands of people – from the elderly to those with small children – gathered in Independence Square on Sunday.

Many were carrying the opposition’s red and white flags, and chanted “freedom” and anti-government slogans.

Ahead of the protest the defence ministry issued a statement invoking Belarus’s sacrifices during World War Two, and saying the army would take over the protection of war memorials.

This weekend’s rally follows the country’s biggest protest in modern history last Sunday, when hundreds of thousands filled the streets.

Strike action in key factories across the country is also keeping up the pressure on the president.

BBC News

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