In an unprecedented show of resistance, workers heckled the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko during his visit to a factory in the outskirts of Minsk amidst the unrest following his election. As he attempted to give his speech, the workers shouter, ‘Liar!’ and ‘Resign!’.
Lukashenko is Europe’s longest-serving ruler, and has been in charge of Belarus for 26 years. Having come to power in 1994 soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he has long been considered an autocrat and elections under his rule have never been considered free or fair. However, rising discontent about pervasive corruption and poverty, a lack of opportunity and low pay reached its final stage during the pandemic.
The stifling of opposition prior to the election had led to fears of falsification of the results, and various irregularities were documented amidst an internet lockdown. When the exit polls came out, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the opposition candidate, who had stood for elections in place of her arrested husband, was suggested to have won only 10% of the votes, in spite of the visible support she had gathered.
Protests erupted across the country after the elections, with more than 6000 arrests taking place, amidst violent clashes where the police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades at the crowds. Tikhanovskaya, fearing for her safety, fled the country, while protests continued, steadily increasing in numbers. As protestors gathered outside the State television building, some 100 staff members came out to join the protestors.
#Belarus Interior Ministry: firearms were used against the protesters in Brest. Another line was crossed. They report about one person that was injured by a firearm.More than 1,000 people were arrested across the country, protests happened in 25 cities.51 people were hospitalised pic.twitter.com/G1Toj1yGK6
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) August 12, 2020
On Sunday, around 100,000 protestors came out on the streets of Belarus in the biggest protest to have ever taken place in the country. Meanwhile, Lukashenko has asked Putin for help, and Putin has offered help in accordance with a collective military pact.