The anti-Lukashenko prepare for their big demonstration

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Critics of Belarusian power are preparing another big march on Sunday in Minsk to denounce the fraudulent re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, a few days after the announcement of Western sanctions against dignitaries of his regime.

• Read also: Belarus: President Lukashenko not sanctioned by the EU

• Read also: Belarus announces sanctions in response to EU sanctions

The unprecedented protest movement, triggered by suspicions of massive fraud during the presidential election of August 9, has gathered tens of thousands of people every Sunday, and this despite the repression.

The anti-Lukashenko prepare for their big demonstration

The anti-Lukashenko prepare for their big demonstration

The Telegram channel NEXTA Live, which partly coordinates the protest and has two million subscribers, indicated that the demonstration was dedicated this time to “political prisoners”.

Hundreds of demonstrators, leaders of political movements, trade unions and journalists were arrested and imprisoned for having participated in or organized the protest.

Every Sunday, the Belarusian authorities deploy riot forces, armored vehicles, reinforced jeeps and water cannons in Minsk in large numbers. They also limit access to mobile internet and reduce the operation of public transport to hamper mobilization.

The anti-Lukashenko prepare for their big demonstration

But despite this show of force and the arrests of almost all of the opposition political leaders, crowds continue to take to the streets.

In Minsk, incidents are generally few, but dozens of people are nevertheless arrested every Sunday.

Sanctions and counter-sanctions

Elsewhere in the country, where major demonstrations are also taking place, sporadic clashes have been reported, as well as the use of tear gas or stun grenades.

Police interventions are however much less violent than in August, when the government used all the anti-riot arsenal to end the protest, unsuccessfully, causing dozens of injuries and carrying out thousands of arrests.

Since then, most of the opposition leaders have been forced into exile, such as Alexander Lukashenko’s competitor in the presidential election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, or imprisoned, as the close ally of candidate Maria Kolesnikova.

The anti-Lukashenko prepare for their big demonstration

The EU on Friday sanctioned around 40 Belarusian officials involved in the crackdown, including the interior minister, his deputies, police officials, the KGB, magistrates and heads of detention centers.

Belarus announced in the wake of establishing its own list of European officials sanctioned, without revealing the names of those concerned.

Russia, the main ally of Alexander Lukashenko, has called European decisions “an admission of weakness”. She also assured that she would apply the retaliatory measures decided by Belarus.

The anti-Lukashenko prepare for their big demonstration

The United States announced the same day economic sanctions against eight Belarusian officials, including the Minister of the Interior.

Macron, Merkel

For her part, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, exile in Lithuania, is increasing the number of meetings with Western officials, meeting French President Emmanuel Macron this week. She is due to see Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday.

Double-edged support for a movement that insists on its popular character, while Moscow and Minsk accuse the West of fomenting unrest in Belarus, and Mr. Lukashenko refuses any dialogue with opponents.

After months of Russian-Belarusian tensions, the Belarusian president seems determined to get closer to Russia, which he accused again this summer of seeking to vassalize his country and want to overthrow it.

Mr. Lukashenko and Vladimir Poutine also showed their “confidence” Friday in a telephone interview in the “next resolution” of the post-election “problems” in Belarus.

The Belarusian president has promised a reform of the constitution with a better distribution of powers, while the head of state is currently all-powerful. But no concrete proposal has been made since August.

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