Europe

Belarus protesters rally again as opposition reaches out to US President-elect Joe Biden

MINSK (AFP) – Protesters gathered in Belarus on Sunday (Nov 8) for the latest in weeks of unprecedented demonstrations against strongman Alexander Lukashenko, with the opposition leader saying she hopes to soon meet with US President-elect Joe Biden.

For three months running, tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Belarus on Sundays to protest against the disputed re-election of Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power for more than two decades.

Mr Lukashenko’s opponents are demanding he hand power to Ms Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a political novice who ran against Mr Lukashenko in the Aug 9 presidential race.

Several thousand protesters joined a march in central Minsk on Sunday, with rights group Viasna reporting that over 30 people have been detained.

Police vans and water cannons had been deployed to the centre of the city.

An AFP journalist in the capital Minsk reported that mobile Internet access was restricted in the city centre. As in previous weeks several metro stations in the city were closed.

From exile in Lithuania, Ms Tikhanovskaya said protests would continue “until victory” and that the past 90 days had shown authorities they had “lost legitimacy and power”.

“The regime doesn’t want to give us the right to decide what will happen next to our country,” Ms Tikhanovskaya wrote on her Telegram channel on Sunday.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, 38, says she was the true winner of the presidential poll and has gained the support of several Western leaders, who have refused to recognise the election results.

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On Saturday she congratulated Mr Biden and said she hopes to meet with the newly elected president.

“This was a real race of ideas, programmes and teams, unlike Belarus, where votes at elections were simply stolen, in the United States the vote of every voter was taken into account,” she said.

She said she believed Mr Biden will “soon meet with the fairly elected president of the new, free Belarus”.

Democrat Biden has previously voiced support for the Belarusian opposition and promised he would expand sanctions against Mr Lukashenko’s regime.

The European Union has already sanctioned Mr Lukashenko, 66, and several of his allies, imposing a travel ban and asset freezes.

With Mr Lukashenko refusing to step down and the opposition unable to force his resignation, the political situation appears to have reached an impasse.

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