Dozens Arrested as Protests Against Lukashenko Continue in Belarus 

Belarusian police detained dozens of protesters on Sunday during a march in Minsk and security forces in Homel used tear gas against demonstrators, as a groundswell of opposition to Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed victory in the country’s presidential election more than a month ago, continued for the 50th day. The protests in Minsk, Homel, and other cities came after Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was inaugurated on September 23 in a secretive ceremony that prompted European Union members and the United States to issue statements that they did not recognize his legitimacy. A spokesman for the Homel Regional Executive Committee’s Main Department of Internal Affairs said “technical devices” were used to cause a loud explosion and a flash of light and tear gas was used “because some people behaved inappropriately,” RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reported. Tens of thousands of people, waving red and white opposition flags, marched through Minsk in the latest demonstration since Lukashenko was declared the winner of the August 9 presidential election. Protesters were planning to hold an “inauguration of the people” in support of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled opposition candidate, who is now in Lithuania. Tsikhanouskaya, who joined the presidential race at the last moment after her husband’s own bid was ended after he was jailed, said she won the August 9 poll with 60 to 70 percent of the vote. She called for Belarusians to demonstrate on September 27 for the “goal of new, honest elections and, as a result, an official, lawful inauguration.” In Minsk, dozens of protesters on September 27 were rounded up and forced into police vans by riot police in balaclavas. Rallies were also reported elsewhere in Belarus, including in Mogilev, Hrodna, Lida, and Homel. The protests came a day after security forces in Minsk detained more than 100 protesters during a women’s march. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets for seven weeks, calling for Lukashenko to step down and new elections to be held. Lukashenko has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in response to protests, including thousands of arrests, beatings, and other mistreatment of peaceful protesters, and the expulsions of foreign journalists. He has denied accusations that the presidential election was rigged. Meanwhile, most figures in the opposition’s Coordination Council, a body established to facilitate dialogue and a peaceful transfer of power, have been forced into exile or detained. In Lithuania, leading writers, artists, and scientists on September 27 appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron to support protesters in Belarus. Macron begins a two-day visit to Lithuania and Latvia on September 28. “Men and women of Belarus are subjected to inhuman torture. And this is happening in 21st century Europe!,” said a poster designed as an open letter to Macron and signed by more than 40 leading Lithuanian cultural figures. “We trust that you, who represents France, where human rights were born, will also hear the painful cry of the Belarusian people for their freedom,” the appeal says.  

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