Belarus Continues Crackdown Against Opposition Protesters

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko continued a crackdown against opponents to his rule  — as thousands took to the streets Tuesday for a third straight night to protest a highly controversial election that saw him declared the winner despite allegations of vote rigging and violence by state security forces.On Tuesday, Lukashenko’s main rival in the race, Svetlana Tikahnovskaya announced she had fled the country — releasing an Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya speaks in a video message in an unknown location, in this still image taken from a video released, Aug. 11, 2020.Lithuania’s Foreign Minister later confirmed she had been offered asylum. Tikhanovskaya had evacuated her children to Lithuania in advance of the August 9 vote.Yet, in a twist, Belarusian authorities later released their Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko chairs a meeting on topical issues in Minsk, Aug. 12, 2020. (Credit: Andrei Stasevich/BelTA)Western condemnationThe U.S. and European Union issued scathing assessments of an election carried out without the presence of independent observers.“The election night was marred with disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters,” said the Women march in solidarity with protesters injured in the latest rallies against the results of the country’s presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 12, 2020.Belarus’s Interior Ministry said troops had fired live munitions against aggressive protesters in the city of Bresk, injuring at least one.Despite spotty cell phone and Internet service, social media was full of clips of demonstrators being detained and beaten by masked security forces.Police reported 6,000 arrests with 200 people injured and one protester killed in the melee.  Authorities also announced 17 criminal cases against protesters who now face the prospect of long prison sentences.On Wednesday, the Mediazona news service published a video in which relatives of the detained gathered outside the central prison in Minsk.Screams could be heard emanating from inside the building’s walls.“Hang on,” family members chanted in response. “Hang on.” 

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