Tsikhanouskaya Calls For National Strike To Go Ahead In Belarus After Crackdown On Protesters

October 26, 2020 04:27 GMT By RFE/RL

A national strike is to begin on October 26 in Belarus after police forces loyal to Alyaksandr Lukashenka fired stun grenades and detained scores of people during protests calling for his resignation.

Opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya called for the strike to go ahead after the crackdown on protests in Minsk and other cities on October 25.

“The regime once again showed Belarusians that force is the only thing it is capable of,” she wrote in a statement. “That’s why tomorrow, October 26, a national strike will begin.”

Tsikhanouskaya has urged Belarusians to block roads, shut down workplaces, stop using government shops and services, and withdraw all money from their bank accounts.

Tsikhanouskaya said earlier on October 25 that she supported each Belarusian who went to the streets to protest peacefully and each government official, law enforcement official, and security worker who expressed solidarity with the people.

“Together we are stronger than any regime & we will return the law to Belarus,” she said on Twitter.

More than 100,000 protesters turned out in Minsk for the 11th Sunday in a row despite a warning by the Interior Ministry against attending demonstrations for which no permit had been issued. The government responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Protesters scattered as loud bangs and flashes lit up the city’s streets after nightfall, videos showed. At least one person was wounded as the result of the use of stun grenades. Rubber bullets were also used to disperse the column, and one person was wounded in the stomach.

More than 200 people were detained, the Vyasna human rights group reported.

Police authorities confirmed that riot control weapons had been used and detentions had taken place, the TASS and RIA news agencies reported.

Ahead of the protests, mobile internet was reportedly disrupted and 12 metro stations were closed in the capital due to “security reasons” until early afternoon, when all of them reopened. Such measures had been reported during past protests in what appeared to be an attempt to disrupt the free flow of information.

Unlike previous Sunday protests, the largest number of people were detained not in the Belarusian capital, but in regions, Vyasna said. Rights campaigners said arrests were made in several cities, including Minsk, Hrodna, Homel, Brest, Lida, and Mahileu. In Lida, security forces used tear gas against protesters.

Belarus has been rocked by protests since Lukashenka, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of the country’s August 9 presidential election amid allegations of widespread vote rigging. The Belarusian opposition says the results of the August vote were fraudulent, and that Tsikhanouskaya was the legitimate winner. She left Belarus for Lithuania shortly after the election amid threats to her and her family.

In addition to Lukashenka’s resignation the movement is calling for an end to police violence, the release of all political prisoners, and a new election.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, and AP

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