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Canada Belarus: tens of thousands of demonstrators despite the threat of live ammunition

19:50  18 october  2020
19:50  18 october  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets in Belarus on Sunday against President Alexander Lukashenko , despite the threat of live ammunition by the police, who arrested around 100 people.

This protest action is the first in scope since the ultimatum set for Mr. Lukashenko, who came to power in 1994, by the leading figure of the opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, a refugee in Lithuania . She gave the president until October 25 to step down, otherwise she will call on the country to take to the streets and a general strike.

Unlike previous rallies, the demonstrators chose Sunday not to march in the center of Minsk but on an artery south of the capital, where many factories are located. They chanted "Strike!" and anti-Lukashenko and anti-police slogans.

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"So far more than 100 people have been arrested in Minsk," Belarusian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Tchemodanova told AFP .

The 66-year-old president, under unprecedented pressure since the controversial presidential election of August 9, has shown no intention of complying with the demands of his detractors, on the contrary.

All Belarusian opposition figures are now detained or in exile abroad. On Sunday, the demonstration in Minsk was violently suppressed by the police, who used water cannons and stun grenades against the crowd and arrested hundreds of people. This intervention was the most brutal in weeks.

On Monday, the Interior Ministry warned that the police will not hesitate from now on to resort "if necessary" to fire with live ammunition, which would constitute a serious escalation of the crisis.

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The head of the KGB, Ivan Tertel, for his part assured Saturday to be aware of an "imminent provocation" in preparation to "destabilize" Belarus.

Angela Krassovskaya, one of the demonstrators in the Sunday parade, told AFP not to be afraid. "We can't back down any longer. If they start shooting, then there will be more people on the streets," she said.

Another demonstrator, retired Maria Petrovich, said "the level of violence perpetrated by the authorities is unprecedented". She said she was ready to continue until the departure of Alexander Lukashenko.

The Belarusian police had already fired live ammunition in early August, during the first demonstrations repressed by force in Brest, in the south of the country. A protester had then died of his injuries. Since the start of the protest, the crackdown has left at least 3 dead and dozens injured.

Ultimatum

In her ultimatum set for October 25, the opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, in addition to the resignation of Mr. Loukachenko, demanded an end to police pressure and the release of all "political prisoners".

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In another message broadcast on Sunday, she called on her fellow citizens to "continue to express our demands in a peaceful and resolute manner". "We will not stop until every political prisoner has been released, the security forces begin to protect their people, and law and fair elections return to Belarus."

Apart from the big demonstration last Sunday, other, smaller gatherings were put down by the police this week.

On Monday, the police dispersed a demonstration of pensioners with tear gas and stun grenades, marching in red and white opposition in the streets of Minsk.

Saturday, during the traditional demonstration of women and that of students, 58 people including journalists were arrested, according to the authorities.

Hundreds of demonstrators, leaders of political movements, trade unions and journalists have been arrested since the start of the protests.

While Mr. Lukashenko enjoys the support of Moscow, he is under threat of sanctions from the European Union, which rejected the results of the August 9 election and which has already sanctioned 40 regime officials, including the Minister of the Interior and his deputy.

18/10/2020 17:10:33 - Minsk (AFP) - © 2020 AFP

Champagne meets Belarus's exiled opposition, as Trudeau talks to Armenian leader .
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will ask Turkey's president to help bring Azerbaijan and Armenian combatants to the negotiating table. Trudeau says he will deliver that message to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later today. Trudeau spoke earlier Friday with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Turkey supports Azerbaijan in its fight with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh — an area a little smaller than Prince Edward Island that's internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but with an ethnic Armenian majority.

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