Tens of thousands protesters rally in Minsk as police detain 250

Monday, 14 Sep, 2020

"The ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus in relation to the 2020 presidential election needs the urgent attention of the Human Rights Council", Germany's Ambassador to the United Nations Michael von Ungern-Sternberg wrote to the Geneva-based council.

A wave of protests has swept Belarus since the August 9 presidential election, which demonstrators say was actually won by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. It will be the first time the two leaders will meet face-to-face since unrest erupted in Belarus following the August 9 election. Opponents and some poll workers say the election results were rigged. The countries have a union agreement envisaging close political, economic and military ties, although Lukashenko has repeatedly expressed concerns that Putin wants Russian Federation to absorb Belarus entirely.

On Saturday, masked riot police violently detained dozens of women demonstrators and threw them into vans during a smaller protest in Minsk.

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.

The Viasna rights group said more than 40 people had been detained.

Sunday's demonstration came as Lukashenko's security forces have stepped up arrests of senior opposition figures who are still in Belarus.

Despite the police crackdown, the opposition seems unwilling to back down.

Traffic officers are now working to redirect vehicles, given that the protesters have blocked several major thoroughfares and intersections in the city.

Meanwhile, footage shot near Lukashenko's official residence not far off from the scene showed armored vehicles and barbed wire deployed in anticipation of the 'march of heroes'.

Sunday demonstrations in the capital of Minsk have repeatedly brought out crowds of more than 100,000.

The opposition announced the slogan "We won't let him sell the country" on its websites and social media channels ahead of the meeting set to take place on Monday.

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 hard for Putin to back him openly.

Lukashenko, a former collective farm director, has rejected any concessions or mediation attempts and has repeatedly accused the western neighbours of Belarus of working to overthrow his government.

He announced the creation of a special security force that could be deployed at the Belarusian leader's request, sent advisers to help Lukashenko control the opposition, and promised $1 billion in financial support, tying Belarus ever closer to Russian Federation.

Many carried portraits of Maria Kolesnikova, a leader of the opposition Coordination Council that is seeking a new presidential election for the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people.