Belarus strongman orders army to defend borders ahead of protests

Belarus strongman orders army to defend borders ahead of protests

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting with the leadership of power structures and law enforcement in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

Meanwhile, traditional ally Russian Federation, issued its strongest comments yet aimed at opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Video on Sunday showed him getting off his helicopter with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle.

Protesters, many wearing and waving the opposition's colors of red and white, chanted "freedom" and "we will not forget, we will not forgive" as they walked in the Minsk city center.

More than 100,000 protesters met in Minsk on Sunday and took over 17 acres in the massive Independence Square, marking an unprecedented gathering for Belarus, which is home to 9.5 million people, and is a sign that government efforts to intimidate the opposition were falling short.

Mr. Lukashenko has also dismissed all opposition to his reign throughout his time in office as well as the country's declining economy.

The opposition said two members of its Coordination Council were detained on Monday: Sergei Dylevsky, a tractor plant worker who has come to prominence as a strike leader and Olga Kovalkova, a member of Tikhanovskaya's staff.

There is a lot of fake news about the current situation in Belarus, especially the actions of the riot police, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he attended a rally in Grodno on 22 August, BelTA has learned.

Several other council members, including Belarus' most famous writer, Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature, have been summoned for questioning over the protests in an apparent attempt by authorities to intimidate them.

Looming overhead, a video by state media showed Lukashenko flying in a helicopter over the protests, before landing at his residence clad in body armor with a rifle in hand.

The report's figures, based on data collected by US-backed civic youth organization Zubr "Bizon" and Chestniye Lyudi ('Honest People'), an election monitoring group established by a group of programmers, showed opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya securing 25.4 percent of the vote, rather than the 10.12 percent as reported by Belarus's election commission.

Last week, Lukashenko's warned the council, which was set up by opposition activists to negotiate a transition of power, that it could face criminal accusations for creating what he described as a parallel government. "The main goal is a new election", she said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will visit Lithuania as part of a trip next week that will also include a stop in Russian Federation for talks on the election fallout.

The European Union's top diplomat, Mr Josep Borrell, warned yesterday that Belarus should not be allowed to become a "second Ukraine" and said it was necessary to deal with President Lukashenko. "We can not joke", Mr Lukashenko said.

The two are also members of the coordinating council that Tikhanovskaya has formed for dialog with the regime.

Prior to the protest, the country's Ministry of Defense issued a strongly-worded statement vowing to take control of national monuments to protect them from demonstrators.

Lukashenko has called demonstrators "rats".

"We think it's very unusual when someone who heads a country allows himself to run about in very odd clothing, with a very odd weapon in the center of Minsk", she said.

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