Out in force in Minsk. Photograph: Sergei Gapon, AFP via Getty Images
20 August 2020
Today (20/08/20) marks the 11th day of civil unrest in Belarus after the results of the presidential election were released 9th August 2020.
Protestors are accusing president Alexander Lukashenko of electoral fraud. They’re also asking for him to step down and free political prisoners.
Bystanders reported many irregularities during the days leading up and following the elections, including the absence of independent election observers and a 61-hour internet blackout that took place from Sunday 9th until Wednesday 12th August.
The internet shutdown was allegedly staged by government officials to prevent information from spreading and limiting anti-government action.
On the night following the election, police officers employed rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Two people died, hundreds were wounded, and thousands arrested.
In a video message addressed to her country, opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya urged Belarus authorities to end violence and side with the people.
Ms Tikhanovskaya officially secured 10% of the votes. She had to flee to neighbouring Lithuania after the election in fear for her and her family’s security and, from there she continues to lead the opposition.
She’s launched a “national coordination council” intending to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power and guarantee “new, fair and democratic” presidential elections under international supervision.
Mr Lukashenko, who appears to have won 80% of the votes, is accusing opposition leaders of organising a coup. In a televised meeting he said, “They demand nothing less than the transfer of power. We see it unequivocally: it is an attempt to seize power…with all the consequences that come with it.”
“We use only legal ways, legal and non-violent methods,” said Olga Kovalkova, who stands by Ms Tikhanovskaya.
“Until you kill me, there will be no other election,” said Mr Lukashenko after a visit to tractor plant on Monday.
It is currently unclear what the next step of the opposition will be.
The response from Europe
Following a meeting held on Tuesday between German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron, European council president Charles Michel, and Russian president Vladimir Putin, EU leaders held an emergency video summit on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
Putin, who supports Lukashenko, urged EU leaders not to intervene. In the event of international military intervention, he also promised to aid the Belarusian president.
EU foreign ministers agreed last week to impose sanctions against individuals found guilty of rigging election results and breaching human rights.