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Minggu, 16 Agustus 2020

Belarus protesters gather as President Alexander Lukashenko rejects calls to rerun vote - ABC News

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has vehemently rejected any possibility of holding a rerun of a questionable election that gave him a sixth term in a landslide, despite pressure from massive protests.

Mr Lukashenko spoke to about 50,000 supporters who had rallied near the main Government building in Minsk on Sunday, while larger crowds of up to 200,000 streamed toward the site of an opposition rally 2.5 kilometres away.

It was the ninth straight day of anti-Government rallies.

The authoritarian President has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist since 1994, repressing opposition figures and independent news media.

But this year, fed up with the country's declining living standards and Mr Lukashenko's dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic, sustained anti-government protests before and after the August 9 presidential election posed the biggest challenge to his 26-year rule.

On Sunday, the 65-year-old accused Western powers of interfering in his country's sovereignty.

A large group of people wave flags and raise their hands in support as they rally in the sunlight in a public square.
Supporters of Mr Lukashenko chanted his nickname, "father", as they waited for him to appear.(AP: Sergei Grits)

He claimed they were gathering military units in countries along Belarus's western borders.

And Mr Lukashenko denounced suggestions by some Western nations the presidential elections should be rerun.

"If we follow their lead [and rerun the election], we will perish as a state," Mr Lukashenko said.

A crowd estimated to be about 200,000 strong marches and waves flags as they pack out a city centre.
Belarusian opposition supporters say the election that returned Mr Lukashenko was a sham.(AP: Dmitri Lovetsky)

In contrast to the first days of protest when large contingents of police and special forces were deployed against protesters, police appeared to be all but absent when the opposition supporters entered the square.

The gathering ended peacefully about three hours later.

The atmosphere was celebratory, with people carrying the red and white flags used in Belarus after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, before Mr Lukashenko restored the Soviet version four years later.

They called out, "Long live Belarus" and "We won't forget or forgive".

Russia, former Soviet states look at providing support

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to send unspecified security assistance to the former Soviet republic if Mr Lukashenko asked for it.

In previous months, Mr Lukashenko had warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin had wanted to take over Belarus, a nation of 9.5 million people.

As Mr Lukashenko invoked fears of Western military designs on Belarus, the Collective Treaty Security Organization, a military alliance of six former Soviet states including Belarus, said it would make a decision about providing assistance if requested by Belarus.

Election officials said last week that Mr Lukashenko won a sixth term with about 80 per cent of the vote.

Protesters said the election was a sham and alleged results were manipulated.

A man looks down the camera as he speaks into the microphone.
President Alexander Lukashenko says rerunning the election would cause Belarus to "perish".(AP: Dmitri Lovetsky)

As post-election protests grew, about 7,000 people were arrested at the demonstrations, which police harshly tried to put down with clubs, rubber bullets and flash grenades.

When many detainees were later released, they showed extensive bruises they said were due to police beatings.

Some protesters at rallies carried pictures of loved ones so beaten by police they could not attend.

On Saturday, hundreds of opposition supporters turned out for a funeral for one protester, Alexander Taraikovsky, 34, who died last week in Minsk under disputed circumstances.

The Government claimed he was killed by an incendiary device he was carrying.

But his partner saw his body and said there were no marks on his hands, just a hole in his chest, and she believed he was shot.

Police wearing riot armour swing a rubber truncheon into the left flank of a man who has raised his hands above his head.
Police have engaged in brutal showdowns with protesters following presidential elections in Minsk in August.(AP: Sergei Grits)

As Mr Lukashenko's supporters waited for his appearance at the rally, many chanted his nickname of "Batka", or "father".

They also chanted "Maidan won't take place," referring to the months of protests in Ukraine in 2013–14 that drove then-president Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country.

Mr Lukashenko's supporters have wanted to highlight the positive aspects of his rule.

Yet Belarus's declining economy and Mr Lukashenko's dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic as "psychosis" are among the factors that have galvanised the largest and most sustained protests the country has ever seen.

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https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMiZ2h0dHBzOi8vd3d3LmFiYy5uZXQuYXUvbmV3cy8yMDIwLTA4LTE3L2JlbGFydXMtcHJvdGVzdC1hbGV4YW5kZXItbHVrYXNoZW5rby1yZWplY3RzLXZvdGUtcmVydW4vMTI1NjQxNzDSASdodHRwczovL2FtcC5hYmMubmV0LmF1L2FydGljbGUvMTI1NjQxNzA?oc=5

2020-08-16 19:40:00Z
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