Images from Minsk that remind of the police violence at the beginning of the protests: security forces brutally beat demonstrators. Ruler Lukashenko talks to the opposition – but only in a gloomy place.
Overshadowed by new massive police violence, tens of thousands of people in Belarus demonstrated against the head of state Alexander Lukashenko. Right at the beginning of the protests on Sunday, security forces beat peaceful people in the capital Minsk and dragged them into minibuses. Observers in Minsk spoke of the most violent clashes between police and demonstrators in weeks. The opposition had called for a “march of pride” – because people have been taking to the streets against Lukashenko for two months. Before the protests, the controversial president met opposition members in prison.
Pictures and videos on the news channel Telegram showed how injured demonstrators sat on the street with a bandage around their heads. Others lay fixed on the ground by the masked security forces. The Wesna Human Rights Center spoke of around 150 people arrested in the afternoon. According to the Association of Journalists of Belarus, more than 20 media representatives were among them.
Belarusian media wrote that many journalists were in police custody during the protests. According to official reports, their documents should be checked. The authoritarian leadership in Minsk thus further restricted reporting on the protests. The authorities have already withdrawn accreditation from all foreign correspondents. Applications with work samples must now be submitted for a new permit.
Water cannons and stun grenades against demonstrators
In view of the rain, observers assumed slightly fewer participants on Sunday than on the previous Sunday. More than 100,000 people took part in each of the campaigns. The security forces again used water cannons against the crowd – flash and bang grenades also flew.
In social networks it was also said that the mobile Internet had been temporarily switched off again. The authorities wanted to prevent the demonstrators from agreeing to protest routes. In addition, several subway stations in Minsk were closed so that people could no longer get to the center. A central intersection was also cordoned off. There were prisoner transports waiting at the roadside, but also military vehicles.
Since the controversial presidential election in early August, people have regularly taken to the streets against Lukashenko. The 66-year-old claimed 80.1 percent of the vote for a sixth term. The EU does not recognize the election result. The opposition, however, sees Svetlana Tichanovskaya as the true winner. It was now the ninth consecutive protest weekend.
Lukashenko discussed with members of the opposition
As early as Saturday, women had walked through Minsk and other cities in small groups with flowers in their hands. At the same time it became known that Lukashenko had surprisingly met with several prisoners of the opposition and members of the coordination council. The conversation in the remand prison of the KGB secret service lasted four and a half hours, reported the Telegram channel “Pul Pervogo”, which is affiliated with the Belarusian state television.
One photo shows Lukashenko in a dark sweater discussing with members of the opposition at an oval table decorated with a flower arrangement. Silence had been agreed on the content, it said. The topic was a possible change to the constitution, reported the opposition portal “Nexta”.
Opposition officials criticized that it was absurd to hold round table talks in prison. Tichanovskaya assessed the appearance of Lukashenko as the result of the growing social pressure on the ruler. At the meeting he admitted that the opposition, whom he had previously described as criminals, were political prisoners.
The most prominent opposition participant at the meeting was the bank manager and politician Viktor Babariko. The 56-year-old wanted to run against Lukashenko in the presidential election, but ended up in prison before the election campaign could really start.
The 38-year-old Tichanovskaya was also allowed to telephone her husband, blogger Sergei Tichanowski, who is critical of the government, for the first time since his imprisonment. Tichanovskaya also wanted to run against ruler Alexander Lukashenko in the presidential election, but was refused. It was the first conversation in 134 days, Tichanovskaya wrote on Telegram. She took his place in the election and was the only opposition member to receive admission. After the election, she fled to Lithuania.