100,000 March in Belarus Protest 09/20 12:16
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Tens of thousands of Belarusians calling for the
authoritarian president to resign marched through the capital Sunday as the
country's wave of protests entered its seventh week.
Hundreds of soldiers blocked off the center of Minsk, deploying water
cannons and armored personnel carriers and erecting barbed wire barriers.
Protests also took place in several other cities, including Brest and Grodno.
The crowd in Minsk included about 100,000 people, said Ales Bialiatski, head
of the Viasna human rights organization. He said dozens of demonstrators were
arrested in Minsk and Grodno.
Protests began Aug. 9 after an election that official results say gave
President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office; opponents and some poll
workers say the results were manipulated.
Lukashenko, who has repressed opposition and independent news media during
26 years in power, has rejected suggestions of dialogue with the protesters.
Many members of the Coordination Council that was formed by the opposition to
push for a transition of power have been arrested or have fled the country.
The Minsk demonstrators carried the red-and-white flags that were
independent Belarus' national standard before being replaced in 1995, early in
Lukashenko's tenure. Some bore placards depicting Lukashenko as a mustachioed
Although protests have taken place daily since the election, the Sunday
gatherings in Minsk have been by far the largest, attracting crowds of as many
as 200,000 people.
"Every Sunday, you are showing yourselves and the world that the Belarusian
people are the power," Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Lukashenko's main
election opponent, said in a video message from Lithuania, where she is in
The marchers also carried portraits of Maria Kolsenikova, a top opposition
figure who has been jailed for two weeks and is facing charges of undermining
state security that could bring a five-year prison term. Kolesnikova has said
security forces drove her to the border with Ukraine to try to make her leave
the country, but that she tore up her passport so she couldn't cross the border.
In a statement relayed by her lawyer on Sunday, Kolsenikova urged protesters
"Freedom is worth fighting for. Do not be afraid to be free," she said. "I
do not regret anything and would do the same again."
Also Sunday, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said an
investigation has been opened into the release by hackers of the personal
information of more than 1,000 employees of the ministry, which runs the police