#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 27 October 2020
Advertisement

'There will be no new election until you kill me': Lukashenko is defiant as EU leaders to discuss next steps

Lukashenko tried to rally support today but was met with workers chanting at him to “go away”.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, center, surrounded by his bodyguards listens to an employee of the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, center, surrounded by his bodyguards listens to an employee of the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant
Image: Nikolai Petrov AP/PA Images

THOUSANDS OF FACTORY workers took to the streets in Belarus today while hundreds of demonstrators besieged the state television headquarters, raising the pressure on president Alexander Lukashenko to step down after 26 years in office.

On the ninth straight day of protests against the official results of the vote handing him a sixth term, Lukashenko flew by helicopter to a factory in Minsk in a bid to rally support but was met by workers chanting “go away”.

Facing the crowd, the 65-year-old dismissed the calls to step down.

“I will never cave in to pressure,” Lukashenko told the workers, saying those who intend to go on strike could leave if they want.

“There will be no new election until you kill me,” he shouted, charging that the protests are ruining the economy and warning that the country will collapse if he steps down.

As he spoke, over 5,000 striking workers from the Minsk Tractor Works plant marched down the streets, demanding that Lukashenko cede his post to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leading opposition candidate.

belarus-protests People gathering at the plant where Lukashenko was addressing employees. Source: AP/PA Images

The official results of the election vote gave Lukashenko 80% of the vote and Ms Tsikhanouskaya only 10%, but the opposition claim the vote was rigged.

Large-scale protests against the vote results continued even after Tsikhanouskaya left the country for Lithuania last week, a move her campaign said was made under duress. The protests have posed the biggest challenge yet to Lukashenko’s rule of the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million.

Belarusian authorities initially tried to suppress the rallies, detaining almost 7,000 people in the first days of the protests. Police moved aggressively, using stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

However, as protests grew and the crackdown drew criticism, law enforcement refrained from interfering and appeared all but absent during a rally yesterday that attracted some 200,000 people.

The events in Belarus have prompted European Council president Charles Michel to convene an emergency summit of EU leaders for talks on the matter.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Michel tweeted that “the people of Belarus have the right to decide on their future and freely elect their leader” as he said the video conference would take place on Wednesday at 11am UK time.

“Violence against protesters is unacceptable and cannot be allowed,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tsikhanouskaya said in a video statement today she was ready to facilitate a re-run of the disputed election.

“I’m ready to take on the responsibility and act as a national leader in order for the country to calm down, return to its normal rhythm, in order for us to free all the political prisoners and prepare legislation and conditions for organising new presidential elections,” she said.

Lukashenko bristled at the idea of talks with the opposition, insisting his government was the only legitimate one, and rejected the idea of repeating the election at a rally in his support on Sunday.

The embattled president told a crowd of 50,000 that the country would “perish as a state” otherwise, and denounced the protesters as stooges of foreign masterminds.

About the author:

Press Association

Read next:

COMMENTS (26)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel