November 24, 2020

Belarus protest: Mass rally keeps pressure on Lukashenko

Tens of thousands have again taken to the streets in Belarus, facing off against riot police to protest against President Alexander Lukashenkoh.

A huge police presence cordoned off areas such as Independence Square in the capital, Minsk, and the interior ministry reported at least 140 arrests.

Protesters chanted “disgrace” and “leave” in standoffs with police.

Belarus has been gripped by mass protests since the 9 AugustTrn election, widely believed to have been rigged.

Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, has said he has no intention of stepping down and denies electoral fraud.

What happened on the streets?

It was very tense, with large numbers of riot police facing off against lines of protesters carrying balloons, flowers and red-and-white opposition flags.

Reporting at the height of the protests, the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Minsk said there were far more police than on the past two Sundays when similar rallies were held. Some protesters lay down on the road to try to prevent riot police from moving, with others chanting “disgrace” and “go away”.

Some mocked Mr Lukashenko on his 66th birthday, carrying a cockroach puppet and chanting “happy birthday, you rat”.

Many streets were blocked off by police to try to prevent people reaching the main protest areas.

One large group of protesters marched towards Mr Lukashenko’s residence at the Independence Palace, which was heavily protected by riot police and water cannon vehicles.

Armoured personnel carriers were seen moving in the area, although reports later said they were also seen leaving and that the crowds were dispersing largely peacefully.

Other smaller protests were reported in towns such as Brest and Grodno.

Vast numbers have again taken to the streets to demand the end of President Lukashenko's ruleImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionVast numbers gathered around the Hero City monument in Minsk to demand the end of President Lukashenko’s rule

Journalists continue to face issues reporting the unrest. On Saturday, the authorities withdrew the accreditation of 17 reporters, most of them Belarusian citizens who have been reporting for foreign media outlets.

Two journalists with the BBC’s Russian service were among those affected. In a statement, the BBC said it condemned “in the strongest possible terms this stifling of independent journalism”.

On Sunday, Germany said it was summoning the Belarus ambassador over the revocations of accreditation.

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