In demand for the Belarus president to resign Belarus saw a noisy march of 10,000 women on Saturday. They were marching towards Belarusian capital beating pots and pans; and shouting for the resignation of the country’s authoritarian president in the 35th consecutive day of large anti-government protests.
Many were carrying portraits of Maria Kolesnikova, a leader of the opposition Coordinating Council that is seeking a new presidential election for the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people. She was jailed this week after police tried to force her out of the country. Her lawyer says Kolesnikova was driven to the border with Ukraine; but tore up her passport and refused to leave Belarus.
While other carried placards reading “You painted my heart with blue pain,” this is in reference to President Alexander Lukashenko’s claim that some women previously had painted themselves to appear to have been bruised by police beatings. Visana, a human rights group said that most of its leaders have been detained or have left the country.
The protests started on 9th August, after a presidential election; that officials say handed Lukashenko a sixth term in office with 80% support. While some opponents and some pole workers are saying that election results were rigged. Some protestors have displayed their anger from a violent police crackdown in the days; after the election when over 7,000 protestors were detained.
The protests are the largest and the most widespread one of Lukashenko’s 26 years in power. And the demonstrations going on in the capital Minsk have brought out 100,000 in the crowd. They have broken out in other major cities in Belarus; and strikes have hit some of the country’s major state-owned industries; previously a base of support for the embattled 66-year-old leader.
On Saturday, Lukashenko met with top officials of the country’s security agencies. He has rejected any concessions, throughout the unrest; and has repeatedly accessed Belarus’s western neighbours of preparing to overthrow his government. In one step of aggressive response, he was seen striding with; an automatic rifle across the grounds of his presidential residence.
As the protests are growing the questions are also popping up; about possible action by Russia to prop up his regime. Lukashenko is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in their face-to-face contact since the unrest began.
Russia has also made it clear that he stands with Belarus and is ready to send Russian police if the protests turn violent, stoking fears that Moscow could use the political dissent as an excuse to annex its neighbour. The countries have a union agreement envisaging close political, economic and military ties; although Lukansheko that Putin wants Russia to absorb Belarus entirely.