Belarus: Protests Demanding New Presidential Elections Intensify, European Union Announces Sanctions

While hundreds of protesters calling for an end to President Alexander Lukashenko's 26-year rule sought to gather outside the Interior Ministry in central Minsk, for the first time in a week, they were blocked by a large number of riot police.

India   |   20 Aug 2020 7:42 AM GMT
Writer : Reethu Ravi | Editor : Prateek Gautam | Creatives : Abhishek M
Belarus: Protests Demanding New Presidential Elections Intensify, European Union Announces Sanctions

Defying orders from the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to the police to clear the streets of the capital Minsk following protests of over a week, hundreds of protesters gathered in the capital on Wednesday evening, calling for the President to step down.

While hundreds of protesters calling for an end to Lukashenko's 26-year rule sought to gather outside the Interior Ministry in central Minsk, for the first time in a week, they were blocked by a large number of riot police. Earlier in the day, while Lukashenko had ordered the police to clear the streets, it only blocked the protesters' path to Interior Ministry, which runs the police.

Meanwhile, the European Union, while holding an emergency summit on the crisis, rejected Lukashenko's re-election in a disputed vote on August 9. The EU also announced financial sanctions against those involved in electoral frauds in Belarus.

"This is about the Belarusian people and their legitimate right to determine the future path of their country," Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU's executive Commission, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Leyen added that the EU will "mobilize now an additional 53 million euros ($63 million) to support the Belarusian people in these challenging times."

Meanwhile, Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, tweeted, "The brave citizens of Belarus are showing their voices will not be silenced by terror or torture."

In the disputed elections on August 9, Lukashenko, Europe's longest-serving leader, claimed the sixth term as president with 80 per cent of votes. For over a week, thousands of people have been protesting, calling for Lukashenko to step down. At least two protesters have died and thousands have been injured till date.

"The European Union stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus, and we don't accept impunity. We don't recognize the results presented by the Belarus authorities," European Council President Charles Michel told reporters, according to Associated Press.

The President, however, has blamed foreign countries for stirring unrest and funding protesters.

According to thestate news agency Belta, announcing police crackdown in the capital, Lukashenko said, "There should no longer be any disorder in Minsk of any kind. People are tired. People demand peace and quiet."

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters assembled in front of the Ministry, amid large police deployment, and chanted "Resign!" and "Let them out!"

"Of course, as a girl I am afraid. I am afraid every time. But I am even more afraid that nothing will change. So we are afraid, but we come out," a protester who gave her name as Yulia, 28, said.

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