The general strike held on Sunday was attended by thousands of people marking it as one of the biggest in the history of Belarus.
The biggest Belarus protest happened in Minsk, having 100,000-220,000 unofficial number of attendees, per BBC. The gathering was brought by the alleged rigging of the election, which earned Alexander Lukashenko a “landslide victory.”
As anger brew within the country, protests were made that resulted in protesters being detained and even experiencing a massive internet outage, following the election results.
Belarus protest marks history
BBC highlights the declaration of a local and independent news outlet, Tut.by, on the recent Belarus protest as “the largest in the history of independent Belarus.”
Per The Guardian, the mass gathering took place near a “second world war memorial.” The protesters “sang, danced, chanted and flashed each other victory signs in collective catharsis at the prospect of political change.”
The largest anti-government protests since last week’s disputed election results took place in Belarus.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 17, 2020
A week before the historic gathering, 6,700 locals were reportedly arrested during the riots, after the Central Election Commission announced the official percentage of the electoral tally—Lukashenko garnering 80.1% of votes, while Svetlana Tikhanovskaya only had 10.12%.
Many of the detainees spoke tales of abuse and torture while under the wing of the arresting officials.
Furthermore, Aljazeera reports that a general strike was called on by the Belarusian opposition after “hundreds of workers at state-run factories downed tools on Friday.” This was reportedly the first sign of Lukashenko’s weakening support.
Among those striking in Belarus are state TV crews. On air this morning? Empty news desks and pop music. pic.twitter.com/1J97OtS2KO
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) August 17, 2020
Accordingly, in a separate report by The Guardian, the outspoken support of Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia, Igor Leshchenya, to the people was taken as another sign of “Lukashenko’s weakening grasp.” She is said to be the “first serving diplomat to back the protesters.”
Lukashenko’s political gathering
Although, the fight to eventually have Lukashenko resign from his post, after 26 years of ruling, is still a long way. More so now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has allegedly assured Lukashenko of his support amid the mass riot.
Reports have it that Putin has assured the Belarus president that Moscow is ready to provide “comprehensive assistance,” should there be any “external military threat.”
Many telegram channels distribute videos of Russian armored vehicles and buses full of soldiers moving to Belarus or in Belarus already. We fact-checked this information and it is misleading. However, let's be attentive anyway.
— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) August 17, 2020
On the same day of the historic Belarus protest, Lukashenko also had his presidential rally.
“The elections were valid,” Lukashenko was quoted in his speech. “We won’t give away the country.”
Unlike the number of people who attended the Belarus protest, Lukashenko’s rally was pale in comparison. Accordingly, the official count was said to be 65,000, but BBC notes that the unofficial estimates were only as low as 10,000.
Many of which were allegedly forced to attend after being threatened of losing their jobs.
Tikhanovskaya ready to lead
Meanwhile, Lukashenko’s rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is more than ready to assume leadership for the sake of restoring calm in the country.
She was quoted in a recorded message, saying:
“I am ready to take on the responsibility and serve in this period as a national leader so that the country calms down, returns to a normal rhythm, so that we free all political prisoners in the shortest possible period and prepare … for new presidential elections.”
Last week, worries loomed Tikhanovskaya’s safety after the results came out, and the riot started to spark the streets. A previous report from BBC highlights that the opposition leader made a “very difficult decision” to flee the country for the sake of her children.
— Linas Linkevicius (@LinkeviciusL) August 11, 2020
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius then tweeted that Tikhanovskaya was safe in his country along with her children, who were sent there first.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons