After Vote That Many Called Rigged, Challenger to Belarus Leader Leaves

Photo of author

By admin

MINSK, Belarus — The main opponent of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the embattled president of Belarus, left the country early Tuesday as organizers of the biggest antigovernment protests in its post-Soviet history called for a general strike.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran for president in Sunday’s election after the jailing of her husband, an opposition blogger, vanished for several hours on Monday. On Tuesday, Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said in a post on Twitter that Ms. Tikhanovskaya was in his country and was “safe.”

The circumstances of her departure were not immediately clear. On Monday, her supporters claimed that she had been taken captive at the Central Election Commission in Minsk, the capital, where she had gone to contest the vote count.

“I made this decision absolutely independently,” Ms. Tikhanovskaya said in a cryptic video message she released on Tuesday. “I know that many will understand me, many will judge me and many will hate me for it. But know that God forbid you will face the kind of choice that I faced.”

In the message, she hinted that she had left Belarus for her children’s sake, without clarifying the choice she faced. In a second video, which she appeared to have recorded under duress, Ms. Tikhanovskaya read from a prepared text calling on Belarusians not to resist the police or to protest in public squares in order “not to put your lives at risk.”

But many Belarusians who have been protesting against Mr. Lukashenko, the authoritarian who has ruled the Eastern European country for 26 years, appeared unlikely to heed her call. The protests erupted after polls closed on Sunday in the country’s presidential election, in which Mr. Lukashenko claimed victory in a landslide, but critics believed the vote was blatantly rigged.

Social-media accounts backing the protests urged a general strike on Tuesday. Anecdotes of factories halting production circulated on the Telegram messaging platform — the protesters’ primary means of communication — but could not be immediately confirmed.

Earlier, protesters and the police clashed across the country for a second consecutive night. Protesters barricaded streets and riot police officers beat back crowds with baton charges, stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

The Belarus authorities said on Tuesday that 2,000 people had been detained overnight and 21 law-enforcement and military personnel had been injured.

Ivan Nechepurenko reported from Minsk, Belarus, and Anton Troianovski from Moscow.

Source link

Leave a Comment