Belarus protests: Workers boo Lukashenko as election unrest spreads…

Media captionLarge crowds of anti-government demonstrators rallied in the capital

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been heckled by workers on a visit to a factory as anger mounts over his disputed re-election.

Workers chanted “leave” and booed the long-time leader of the ex-Soviet state as he insisted he would not allow a new vote after allegations of ballot fraud.

Strike action spread to state TV, with staff walking out on Monday.

Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has suggested she could act as an interim leader.

Police violence towards opposition supporters, as well as the alleged poll-rigging in the 9 August vote, fuelled a big protest rally in the capital Minsk on Sunday.

Mr Lukashenko has led Belarus since 1994, maintaining close relations with neighbouring Russia, on which Belarus heavily relies for energy supplies.

How great is the pressure on Lukashenko?

According to local, independent news site Tut.by, Sunday’s opposition rally in Minsk was “the largest in the history of independent Belarus”.

A wave of anger has been rising since the Central Election Commission said Mr Lukashenko had won 80.1% of the vote and Ms Tikhanovskaya – 10.12%.

Protesters outside the tractor factory in Minsk, 17 August
Image captionStriking workers gathered outside the Minsk tractor factory on Monday

Hundreds of protesters have been wounded and two have died in clashes with police over the past week. Some 6,700 people have been arrested, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of security forces.

On a visit to a Minsk tractor plant on Monday, Mr Lukashenko sought to defend his disputed victory, telling workers: “We held the election. Until you kill me, there will be no other election.”

However he said he was willing to hold a referendum and “hand over my authority in accordance with the constitution – but not under pressure and not via street protests”.

As Mr Lukashenko spoke at the factory, workers booed him and chanted “leave”

Last week, workers at state-run factories walked out in solidarity with the protesters, and more strikes are planned for this week, increasing the pressure on Mr Lukashenko.

At state TV, staff walked out in protest against censorship and the election results.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who left for Lithuania after denouncing the results, insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60% to 70%.

In a video message released on Monday, she said she was ready to become a “national leader” in order to restore calm and normality, freeing political prisoners and preparing for new elections.

Media captionOpposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and President Lukashenko give very different messages

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