On Sunday, thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooded Minsk in another wave of protests demanding Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko resign following allegations of election rigging and human rights abuses.
The protestors gathered in Minsk’s Independence Square, draped in red and white flags. A moment of silence was held for victims of the Lukashenko regime, only to be interrupted by authorities over a loudspeaker, saying “This demonstration is illegal, go home.”
Protestors refused to yield to the regime and continued demonstrations. This is week two in a series of large protests that have engulfed the country since Aug. 9, when Lukashenko declared himself ‘victorious’ with 80% of the vote.
There were fears that regime cronies would violently break up protests as they did last weekend, which resulted in thousands of detainments and injuries in clashes with police.
This is a result of Lukashenko’s hardliner stance, proclaiming all unnamed “foreign-backed revolutionaries” would be crushed.
These events have drawn attention from multiple human rights organizations voicing concerns over allegations that regime officials beat and maimed prisoners.
Over the course of the last two weeks, Lukashenko has watched his grip over Belarus begin to weaken as protesters continue to demand his resignation regardless of the risks involved.
While brute force and violence have worked for Lukashenko in the past, it has not been nearly as effective as of late. It has emboldened the opposition that appears to be growing in number by the day.
To the east lies Vladimir Putin, who is assuredly watching closely to see how the situation develops, for Belarus is an immediate neighbor well within the Russian sphere of influence.
Although relations between Lukashenko and Putin have soured over disagreements on economic policy, Putin is looking to avoid western influence in Belarus at all costs.
The next few weeks will be a critical moment for the Belarus regime. If international pressure continues and domestic unrest cannot be quelled, it may well collapse, bringing ‘Europe’s last dictator’s’ 26-year rule to an end.
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