(ANSA-AFP) – MINSK, 18 OCT – Thousands of Belarusians took to the streets of Minsk today for a new protest against President Alexander Lukashenko despite threats from the authorities to open fire after weeks of demonstrations.
The former Soviet nation is gripped by protests after Lukashenko claimed victory in the elections on 9 August last over Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the popular opposition candidate. In a message broadcast before the protest, Tikhanovskaya urged Belarusians to carry out their demands “peacefully, but persistently”. “We will only stop when every political prisoner is free, when members of law enforcement begin to defend the people, and the rule of law and fair elections return to Belarus,” he said.
Tikhanovskaya, who fled Belarus to take refuge in Lithuania after the vote, called on Lukashenko to step down before 25 October, warning that otherwise he would face a general strike. Earlier this week, police said the protests were becoming more radicalized and warned that law enforcement would use lethal force “if necessary”. This morning the authorities deployed military trucks and the telephone networks suffered severe disruptions. (ANSA-AFP).