Belarus ambassador declares solidarity with opposition protesters

‘I stand in solidarity with those who came out on the streets of Belarusian cities with peaceful marches so that their voice could be heard’

Samuel Lovett
Sunday 16 August 2020 11:28 BST
Police and protesters clash after Belarus presidential vote

The Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia has broken rank to declare solidarity with protesters in Belarus following the country’s disputed presidential election.

“I stand in solidarity with those who came out on the streets of Belarusian cities with peaceful marches so that their voice could be heard. The Belarusians have achieved this right through suffering,” Igor Leshchenya said in a video posted by Nasha Niva media on Saturday.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, has faced down a week of street demonstrations and refused demands for a re-run of an election protesters say was massively rigged to disguise the fact that he has lost public support.

He denies losing, citing official results that gave him just over 80 per cent of the vote.

The 65-year-old leader has alleged a foreign-backed plot to topple him. He has also cited promised military support from Russian president Vladimir Putin if necessary, something the Kremlin has not confirmed.

The EU is gearing up to impose new sanctions on Belarus in response to a violent crackdown in which at least two protesters have been killed and thousands detained.

Protesters show no signs of backing down.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Mr Lukashenko’s opposition rival in the contested election, has called for a huge “March of Freedom” through the centre of Minsk, the Belarusian capital, on Sunday morning.

Like previous protests, it is expected to culminate on Independence Square outside the main government building.

At the same time, Mr Lukashenko’s supporters are expected to hold a pro-government rally in central Minsk – setting the stage for potential confrontation between the two groups.

Metal fencing around Independence Square was being installed on Sunday morning with agricultural vehicles used to close off nearby roads.

Opposition media channels say Mr Lukashenko, a one-time manager of a Soviet-era collective farm, plans to bus people in from other parts of the country and that they will be coerced into attending. Reuters could not independently confirm that.

Videos on social media showed long columns of buses with pro-Lukashenko supporters onboard driving towards Minsk from various regions.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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