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Tens of thousands march in Belarus despite police threat to fire | Europe




The senior police official said officers reserve the right to use firearms in demonstrations against President Lukashenko.

Tens of thousands of people have marched through the streets of the Belarusian capital Minsk to demand the resignation of veteran President Alexander Lukashenko, despite a threat from officials to use firearms against protesters.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely aligned with Russia, has been rocked by weekly strikes and street protests since authorities announced that Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994, had secured re-election on August 9 by 80 percent. of votes.

Some protesters cheered Strike! and You and your riot police get out! during the Sunday march.

The Interfax news agency put the number of protesters at more than 30,000. As many as 50 people were reportedly arrested by police, Belarussian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova told AFP, adding that more than 100 people had been arrested in Minsk.

Interfax also reported that the broadband mobile signal was cut off in parts of the city. He also said loud noises that sounded like stunning grenades were heard near the march.

A senior police official said last week officers would reserve the right to use firearms against demonstrators.

Images posted on the Telegram channel showed Belarusian security forces placing water cannons and blocking barbed wire roads and heavy machinery.

A local media outlet said security forces had fired rubber bullets into the air in response to protesters throwing stones at them.

There is no way back for us

Security forces have arrested more than 13,000 people since the disputed election, including all key opposition leaders who did not leave the country and did not print independent media.

Some people have also died in the post-election crackdown, with horrific accounts showing prison abuses. Many said they had been tortured, beaten and humiliated in custody.

Police have acknowledged the use of water cannons and stun grenades against demonstrators, but the use of live ammunition would mark a major escalation in the two-month blockade.

However, many protesters remain undecided.

The Interfax news agency put the number of protesters on Sunday at more than 30,000 [AP Photo]

Angela Krasovskaya said she was not afraid.

“There is no way back for us,” Krasovskaya told AFP. If they start shooting, then there will be even more people on the streets.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania last week, urged Lukashenko to step down by October 25 or face what she said would be nationwide strikes that would paralyze Belarus.

The European Union has refused to recognize the controversial voting results. Last week, EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on Lukashenko as the bloc seeks to increase pressure on suppressing protesters.

A Norwegian politician said Sunday that he had nominated Tikhanovskaya and two other senior members of the Belarusian opposition for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for organizing peaceful protests.

Geir Toskedal, of the Christian Democratic Party, told the daily Vart Land that he had nominated Tikhanovskaya, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo for their fight for fair elections and for inspiring peaceful opposition to the illegitimate regime in Belarus.

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