Tag Archives: East Europe

Belarus elections: Another opposition detained by ‘men on mask’

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Apparent detention of Maxim Znak, a lawyer and opposition group member, comes after case involving Maria Kolesnikova.

One of the last remaining members of the Belarusian opposition’s Coordination Council at large, lawyer Maxim Znak, has been detained in Minsk by masked men, according to his colleagues.

Znak’s apparent detention came a day after the most prominent opposition figure still in Belarus, Maria Kolesnikova, was detained at the Ukrainian border after she prevented authorities from expelling her by tearing up her passport and jumping out of a car.



Znak, who had worked as a lawyer for jailed presidential hopeful Viktor Babaryko, had been due to participate in a video call but did not show up, instead sending the word “masks” to the group, Babaryko’s press service said on Wednesday.

It said a witness had also seen Znak, 39, being led down the street near his offices by several men in civilian clothes and wearing masks.

Znak was one of the last two members of the Coordination Council’s governing praesidium to remain free [Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

Along with Svetlana Alexievich, a 72-year-old Nobel Prize-winning author, Znak was the last of the seven members of the Council’s governing praesidium to remain free.

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Others have been detained or forced to leave Belarus, in an intensifying crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko’s government over a disputed election.

Previous incident
The Coordination Council was set up by the opposition forces to work towards negotiating a peaceful transfer of power after main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya rejected Lukashenko’s claim that he had been re-elected to a sixth term in an August 9 vote.

The disputed election has sparked the biggest anti-government demonstrations of Lukashenko’s 26-year rule, with tens of thousands taking to the streets for weeks to demand he resign.

Lukashenko’s security services hit back with waves of arrests, deadly violence against protesters and a campaign of intimidation and expulsion against opposition leaders.

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Meanwhile, Lukashenko is preparing to travel to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, although no date has been set yet.

Putin quickly congratulated Lukashenko on his victory last month and has offered Russia’s support.

Lukashenko gave an interview this week to Russian journalists, including Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Kremlin-controlled channel RT, in which he warned that if his government falls, “Russia will be next”.

Anti-Kremlin placards could be seen at a huge protest march in Minsk on Sunday


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Protest leader ‘abducted’

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Unidentified people reportedly detain Maria Kolesnikova in central Minsk as police arrest demonstrators.

Belarusian protest leader Maria Kolesnikova has been abducted by unidentified individuals in central Minsk, according to the Belarusian Tut.By media outlet, citing a witness.

Masked men took her and drove off in a minivan, said Tut.By.

The development on Monday came hours after security forces arrested 633 protesters following a mass anti-government rally on Sunday, the latest since the disputed August election.

Police in Minsk said they had not arrested Kolesnikova, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Kolesnikova is the last one left in Belarus of three female politicians who joined forces before the August 9 presidential election to challenge longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko.

A vocal critic of Lukashenko, she has played an important role in the country’s post-election political crisis, which has seen weeks of mass protests and strikes by people who accuse the strongman of rigging his re-election, something he denies.

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Before the vote, Kolesnikova teamed up with opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who later fled to Lithuania, and with Veronika Tsepkalo, who has also since left the country.

Another leading activist, Olga Kovalkova, arrived in Poland on Saturday, saying she had been told she would face arrest if she stayed in Belarus.

Tsepkalo told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media from Poland that her allies in Belarus still did not have any information on Kolesnikova’s whereabouts.

“Hopefully she will be released as soon as possible. I really worry about her,” she said.

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Tsepkalo also said it was “not safe right now for the leaders and as you can see all the leaders are put in prison, detained or had to leave the country”.

“Lukashenko isolates the strongest leaders. During this presidential season, he has put two opposition leaders in prison. My husband is facing up to 15 years behind bars on criminal charges,” she said.

Tsikhanouskaya said the reported abduction of Kolesnikova looked like an attempt by authorities to derail the opposition’s Coordination Council and intimidate its members.

The economy
Earlier on Monday, central bank figures showed Belarus had burned through nearly one-sixth of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, or $1.4bn, in August, as it fought to prop up its rouble currency during the wave of unrest.

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Kolesnikova had announced on August 31 that she was forming a new political party, Together, with the team of jailed opposition figure Viktor Babaryko with whom she had previously worked.

On Sunday, columns of protesters defied a government warning not to march, waving red-and-white opposition flags and shouting “go away” and “you’re a rat”.

Kolesnikova is the last of three female opposition leaders left inside Belarus [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]

Protests also took place in major cities throughout Belarus.

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and, buoyed by a show of support from traditional ally Russia, has rejected calls for new elections.

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Unprecedented protests broke out when he claimed he had been re-elected with 80 percent of the vote.

Daragh McDowell, principal analyst at the global consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft, said economic factors are playing a significant role in the demonstrations, with the country “rapidly running out of money”.

“The IT sector has been repeatedly undermined with the internet shutdowns to disrupt the protesters. We’ve also seen a lot of strikes in the state-owned sector as well. So the Belarussian economy is really on the brink,” McDowell told Al Jazeera.

“The people have lost their fear of Lukashenko, he’s lost a lot of his authority. No matter how many riot police he’s deployed to the streets, it just hasn’t stopped people from continuing to come out.”


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Protesters march harder over Lukashenko’s nay

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Protests against strongman Lukashenko intensify as 100,000 take to the streets of Minsk following disputed re-election.

Tens of thousands of people marched through Minsk on Sunday calling on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to step down in mass demonstrations that showed no sign of abating nearly a month after an election his opponents say was rigged.

Columns of protesters defied a government warning not to march, waving red-and-white opposition flags and shouting “go away” and “you’re a rat”.

Protests also took place in major cities throughout Belarus, said interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova. Crowd sizes for those protests were not immediately reported, but Ales Bialiatski, head of the Viasna human rights organisation, said the demonstration in Minsk attracted more than 100,000 people.

The interior ministry said at least 100 people were arrested. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported several people were injured when police broke up a protest outside a state-run tractor factory.

Video footage shown by local media outlet TUT.BY showed women shouting “shame” at masked members of the security forces who dragged people away into detention. Troops, water cannon, armoured personnel carriers were deployed to the city centre ahead of the march.

“This sea of people cannot be stopped by military equipment, water cannons, propaganda and arrests. Most Belarusians want a peaceful change of power and we will not get tired of demanding this,” said Maria Kolesnikova, a leader of the Coordination Council set up by the opposition to try to arrange a dialogue with the 66-year-old Lukashenko about a transition of power.

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Daragh McDowell, principal analyst at the global consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft, said economic factors are playing a signifcant role in the demonstrations with the country “rapidly running out of money”.

“The IT sector has been repeatedly undermined with the internet shutdowns to disrupt the protesters. We’ve also seen a lot of strikes in the state-owned sector as well. So the Belarussian economy is really on the brink,” McDowell told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

“The people have lost their fear of Lukashenko, he’s lost a lot of his authority. No matter how many riot police he’s deployed to the streets, it just hasn’t stopped people from continuing to come out.”

‘Beatings and torture’
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and, buoyed by a show of support from traditional ally Russia, has rejected calls for new elections.

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Unprecedented protests broke out after Lukashenko claimed re-election with 80 percent of the vote on August 9.

Opposition rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said she won the election, but Lukashenko’s security forces have arrested thousands of protesters, many of whom accused police of beatings and torture.

Several people have died in the crackdown, but Belarusians have been demonstrating across the country for nearly a month, with more than 100,000 people flooding the streets of the capital, Minsk, for four straight weekends.

Dozens of people, including student protesters and journalists covering rallies were arrested this week.

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The interior ministry said in a statement that 91 protesters had been detained on Saturday, and said it would beef up security and take “take all necessary measures to suppress such actions and prevent violations of public order” on Sunday.

Tikhanovskaya, who will travel to Warsaw to meet the Polish prime minister next week, said in a video address on Saturday the momentum of the protests was irreversible.

“Belarusians have already changed, they have awakened and it is impossible to push them back into the former mindset. Remember we are strong as long as we are united,” Tikhanovskaya said.

Tikhanovskaya contested the election after her blogger husband was jailed and barred from running along with several other prominent Lukashenko critics.

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She left Belarus under pressure from authorities and took shelter in EU member Lithuania.

On Friday, Tikhanovskaya addressed a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by video link, calling for sanctions against those responsible for the alleged electoral fraud and rights violations.

The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have blacklisted Lukashenko and 29 high-ranking officials in his administration, but other European Union members appear reluctant to target the Belarus strongman personally.

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In an interview published in the Financial Times on Sunday, Lithuania’s foreign minister urged the European Union to impose sanctions on Belarus and counter Russia’s influence or risk undermining the credibility of its foreign policy.

“Sometimes we react too late and our measures are fragmented and aren’t making any impression on society or the people in power,” Linas Linkevicius said.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have imposed travel bans on Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials without waiting for the rest of the EU to act, signalling impatience with the West’s cautious approach.

Russia has said it will respond to any Western attempts to “sway the situation”, and President Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of sending military support.

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Putin has been eager to unify Russia and Belarus, and Moscow has accompanied its recent offers of economic and military aid with calls for tighter integration.

Lukashenko has in the past ruled out outright unification and sought to play Moscow against the West, but his options now are limited.

On Thursday, Lukashenko hosted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and replaced the chief of the KGB security service in what some analysts said might have been done under pressure from Moscow.

The embattled leader said Russia and Belarus had agreed on issues they “could not agree earlier”, and he planned to “dot all the i’s” with Putin in Moscow in the next few weeks.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Protesters hit hard on Lukashenko’s resignation.

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Protests against strongman Alexander Lukashenko intensify as he refuses to quit following disputed re-election.

BaThousands of Belarusians have staged a peaceful new march, keeping pressure on strongman Alexander Lukashenko who has refused to quit after his disputed re-election and turned to Russia for help to stay in power.

Holding red-and-white flags and placards, protesters including many students took to the streets of the capital Minsk on Sunday despite authorities mounting a massive show of force and detaining some demonstrators.

Troops, water cannon, armoured personnel carriers and armoured reconnaissance vehicles were deployed to the city centre ahead of the march and metro stations in Minsk’s centre were closed.

Unprecedented protests broke out after Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation for 26 years, claimed re-election with 80 percent of the vote on August 9.

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Opposition rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she has won the vote but Lukashenko’s security forces have arrested thousands of protesters, many of whom accused police of beatings and torture.

Several people have died in the crackdown but Belarusians have been demonstrating across the country for nearly a month, with more than 100,000 people flooding the streets of the capital, Minsk, for three straight weekends.

Dozens of people, including student protesters and journalists covering rallies, were arrested this week.

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On Saturday, about 4,000 people took to the streets and more than 90 people were arrested, the interior ministry said.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice, urged supporters to turn up for Sunday’s “March of Unity” set to begin at 11:00 GMT.

“Remember we are strong as long as we are united,” she said in a short video address.

Women in Minsk hold signs as they rally against police brutality during protests to reject the presidential election results [Reuters]

Tikhanovskaya contested the election after her blogger husband was jailed and barred from running along with several other prominent Lukashenko critics.

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She left Belarus under pressure from authorities and took shelter in EU member Lithuania.

On Friday, Tikhanovskaya addressed a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by video link, calling for sanctions against those responsible for the alleged electoral fraud and rights violations.

The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have blacklisted Lukashenko and 29 high-ranking officials in his administration but other European Union members appear reluctant to target the Belarus strongman personally.

Russia has said it will respond to any Western attempts to “sway the situation” and President Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of sending military support.

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Putin has been eager to unify Russia and Belarus, and Moscow has accompanied its recent offers of economic and military aid with calls for tighter integration.

Lukashenko has in the past ruled out outright unification and sought to play Moscow against the West but his options now are limited.

On Thursday, Lukashenko hosted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and replaced the chief of the KGB security service in what some analysts said might have been done under pressure from Moscow.

The embattled leader said Russia and Belarus had agreed on issues they “could not agree earlier” and he planned to “dot all the i’s” with Putin in Moscow in the next few weeks.


#Newsworthy…

Nerve Agent Found in Russia’s Navalny: Germany

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Novichok, a Soviet-era chemical weapon, was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.


Tests performed on samples taken from prominent Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny showed the presence of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, the German government said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement on Wednesday testing by a special German military laboratory had shown “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”.

“It is a dismaying event that Alexey Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” Seibert said. “The German government condemns this attack in the strongest terms. The Russian government is urgently requested to provide clarifications over the incident.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was not informed of the German findings and had no such data, Noble Reporters Media gathered

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Moscow to investigate the poisoning, and said the Russian ambassador had been summoned to explain the evidence.

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“This makes it all the more urgent that those responsible in Russia be identified and held accountable,” Maas told reporters. “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms.”

Novichok – a military grade nerve agent – was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

The Charite hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is being treated, has reported “some improvement” in his condition, but he remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow, Russia, in February [Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters]

‘Joint response’

Navalny, 44, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

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He was later transferred to Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

Seibert said the German government would inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the Novichok test results. He said it would consult with its partners in light of the Russian response “on an appropriate joint response”.

Navalny’s allies in Russia have insisted he was deliberately poisoned by the country’s authorities, accusations the Kremlin rejected as “empty noise”.

“To poison Navalny with Novichok in 2020 would be exactly the same as leaving an autograph at a crime scene, like this one,” Navalny’s longtime ally and strategist Leonid Volkov said in a tweet that featured a photo of Putin’s name and a signature next to it.

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The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

German hospital: Clinical findings point to Navalny’s poisoning (4:07)

Reporting from Moscow, Noble Reporters Media learnt Russia’s response was so far “cautious and restrained”.

“The Russian doctors released Navalny with a ‘metabolic disorder’ diagnosis. Two labs in Russia didn’t find anything suspicious and a pre-investigation didn’t find anything leading to foul play,” she said. “On the other hand, the opposition is saying, ‘We knew [it was Novichok] – all the symptoms are there.'”

Is the Russian opposition finished?
Novichok is a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and ’80s. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identified in Navalny.

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“Only the state [FSB, GRU] can use Novichok. This is beyond any reasonable doubt,” Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter, referring to the FSB internal security and GRU military intelligence services.

READ MORE: In: Russian medics accept Nalvany evacuation.

The Navalny case has drawn parallels with two suspected Kremlin-linked poisonings in the UK.

British authorities identified Novichok as the poison used in 2018 on former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter in Salsbury, England.

In 2006, Putin was blamed for the radiation poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in the British capital.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus protest persists despite crackdown | Video

Watch video here – Belarus elections – Noble Reporters tv

Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania places Lukashenko of Belarus on blacklist.

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President Lukashenko acknowledges his country’s ‘somewhat authoritarian system’, discussing plans for a referendum.


Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have blacklisted embattled Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 29 other high-ranking officials for alleged election fraud and a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

The Baltic EU members announced their sanctions on Monday in a coordinated effort to support the protests in Belarus, which are entering a fourth week since the country’s disputed presidential election on August 9.

“We are sending the message that we need to do more than just issue statements, we must also take concrete action,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

Lithuania has been hosting opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled there after the election her supporters say she won.

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Tikhanovskaya will speak to the UN Security Council on Friday at Estonia’s invitation, her spokesman said.

The European Union has been working on its own list of individuals in Belarus to target with similar sanctions, but Western countries have mostly been cautious, wary of provoking an intervention from Russia.

Reacting to the three Baltic countries’ move, the Belarusian foreign ministry called the sanctions a hasty step and it would respond in an equivalent fashion, according to the Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

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Lukashenko’s proposal
Meanwhile, Lukashenko on Monday discussed plans for a referendum on constitutional reforms, acknowledging the country’s “somewhat authoritarian system”.

Lukashenko discussed plans for a referendum on constitutional reforms [Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP]

His proposals focused on court reforms and rejected calls by the opposition to go back to the country’s 1994 constitution that was later modified to give the president more powers.

Lukashenko has sought to downplay the protest movement and depict himself as maintaining control and order.

But he has appeared increasingly isolated and paranoid, booed by the blue-collar workers he viewed as his natural supporters and taken to wearing a bullet-proof vest to helicopter into his official residence.

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Meeting the chairman of the Supreme Court, Lukashenko said experts were discussing changes, including more independent courts, while he said this was not needed.

“I’m ready to argue with anyone that the most independent court is in Belarus. No one should laugh.”

He said, however, the system needed to work “without being tied to a personality, including Lukashenko”.

He said members of the public would be able to “give their opinion: what they like, what they don’t,” while insisting that “those who yell about being for changes” were a minority.

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Lukashenko, elected democratically in 1994, held a referendum on changes including constitutional reforms in 1996.

These included giving the president greater powers on appointing judges, including the chair of the Constitutional Court.

A controversial constitutional referendum was held in 2004 allowing the president to serve three terms instead of two as before.

Lukashenko said going back to the 1994 constitution as the opposition wants would not move the country forward.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Tens of thousands rally in opposition march.

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Police detain more than 100 protesters during rally in Minsk, RIA reported, citing Russia’s interior ministry.


The situation in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, is tense as tens of thousands of Belarus protesters join an opposition rally against the controversial re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Police detained 125 protesters during Sunday’s rally, Russian news agency RIA reported, citing Russia’s interior ministry.

Independence Square in the centre of the city was sealed off with metal barriers and guarded by security forces as the Belarusian interior ministry warned citizens not to take part in Sunday’s “unauthorised” rally.

The pro-democracy movement ignored the threats and said Lukashenko should see that people were against him as he celebrates his 66th birthday on Sunday.

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The movement added that after ruling for 26 years, his time in power was up.

Despite the presence of a heavy security force, protesters packed the centre of Minsk with crowds waving the opposition’s red and white flag and chanting “Leave”.

People walk about the Nemiga district in central Minsk as the country enters its third week of peaceful protests following the disputed August 9 presidential poll [Misha Friedman/Getty Images]

Mass protests
On the last two Sundays, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Belarus to protest against Lukashenko, who has been dubbed “Europe’s last dictator”.

The protests are the largest and most sustained challenge of Lukashenko’s years in office, during which he consistently repressed opposition and independent news media.

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On Saturday, Belarusian authorities stripped the press accreditation of many journalists covering the anti-government protests and deported some foreign journalists.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, at least 17 journalists were stripped of their accreditation issued by the foreign ministry.

Among them were a video journalist and a photographer from Reuters news agency, two from the BBC and four from Radio Liberty.

In the past few days, other demonstrations were disbanded and people arrested, indicating the power apparatus might not allow a fresh mass demonstration.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin also expressly promised Lukashenko support from his country’s security forces in what is seen as a ploy to intimidate the protest movement.

The head of state of the ex-Soviet republic was recently cheered by supporters at public appearances.

Since the controversial presidential election on August 9, a division between the supporters and opponents of the president has emerged.

The protests and strikes in state-owned enterprises that emerged afterwards are the largest since Belarus gained independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Journalists expelled

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News organisations denounce gov’t move before planned rallies, the latest against Lukashenko’s disputed re-election.


Authorities in Belarus have deported some foreign journalists reporting in the country and withdrawn the accreditation of many Belarusian reporters covering large anti-government protests that erupted after a disputed presidential election earlier this month.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks, rejecting President Alexander Lukashenko’s landslide victory in the August 9 vote, which his opponents say was rigged. Several people have been killed and hundreds more wounded during a violent police crackdown, with thousands of protesters detained.

Ahead of another protest planned for Sunday, the Belarusian Association of Journalists said at least 17 journalists were stripped of their accreditation, which are issued by the foreign ministry. Among them were a video journalist and a photographer from Reuters news agency, two from the BBC and four from Radio Liberty.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this stifling of independent journalism,” the BBC said on Saturday.

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The Associated Press news agency also said two Moscow-based journalists who were covering the recent demonstrations in Belarus were deported to Russia on Saturday. Also, the AP’s Belarusian journalists were told by the government that their press credentials had been revoked.

“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms this blatant attack on press freedom in Belarus. AP calls on the Belarusian government to reinstate the credentials of independent journalists and allow them to continue reporting the facts of what is happening in Belarus to the world,” said Lauren Easton, the news agency’s director of media relations.

Germany’s ARD television said two of its Moscow-based journalists also were deported to Russia, a Belarusian producer faces trial on Monday and their accreditation to work in Belarus was revoked.

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The decision was taken on the recommendation of the country’s counterterrorism unit, AFP news agency cited government spokesman Anatoly Glaz as saying.

In comments at a government meeting on July 23, Lukashenko had threatened to expel foreign journalists, accusing them of inciting protests against him before the vote.

“President Lukashenko has previously complained about foreign media’s coverage of protests in Belarus, and has cracked down on foreign media,” said NRM, reporting from Vilnius in Lithuania.

He noted that most journalists affected by Saturday’s move were Belarusians who work for foreign media organisations.

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“If they continue to work without accreditation, they risk being arrested,” Smith said.

‘Fear and intimidation’
Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile in Lithuania, said on Saturday she was worried about the government targeting the media.

“The only way it will attempt to cling onto power is by fear and intimidation,” she said.

Separately on Saturday, several Western embassies in Minsk issued a strongly worded statement.

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“We condemn the disproportionate use of force and urge the Belarusian authorities to stop the violence and the threats to use military force against the country’s own citizens and release immediately and unconditionally all those unlawfully detained,” the missions of the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the European Union said in the joint statement.

“Intimidation and prosecution based on political grounds need to stop. We call on the Belarusian authorities to respect the country’s international obligations on fundamental democratic and human rights.”

The protests, some of which drew enormous crowds estimated at 200,000 or more, are the largest and most sustained challenge of Lukashenko’s 26 years in office, during which he consistently repressed opposition and independent news media.

On Saturday, hundreds of women dressed mostly in red and white – the colours of the former Belarusian flag that the opposition uses as an emblem – marched through the capital, Minsk, in a protest.

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Dubbed by critics as “Europe’s last dictator”, Lukashenko has denounced a Western plot to bring him down and rejected the rigging allegations.

The results of the presidential election have been rejected by the European Union, which is preparing sanctions against high-ranking Belarusian officials.

Katsiaryna Shmatsina, of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, told Al Jazeera the sanctions against “individuals who are guilty of human rights violations in Belarus” is “an important step” but added that “the regime considers this the cost of doing business”.

“This won’t stop them from further intimidating the Belarusians.”


#Newsworthy…