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March of 100,000 marks week 7 of Belarus protests

SeattlePI.com Sunday, 20 September 2020
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Tens of thousands of Belarusians calling for the authoritarian president to resign marched through the capital Sunday as the country’s wave of protests entered its seventh week.

Hundreds of soldiers blocked off the center of Minsk, deploying water cannons and armored personnel carriers and erecting barbed wire barriers. Protests also took place in several other cities, including Brest and Grodno.

The crowd in Minsk included about 100,000 people, said Ales Bialiatski, head of the Viasna human rights organization. He said dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Minsk and Grodno.

Protests began Aug. 9 after an election that official results say gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office; opponents and some poll workers say the results were manipulated.

Lukashenko, who has repressed opposition and independent news media during 26 years in power, has rejected suggestions of dialogue with the protesters. Many members of the Coordination Council that was formed by the opposition to push for a transition of power have been arrested or have fled the country.

The Minsk demonstrators carried the red-and-white flags that were independent Belarus' national standard before being replaced in 1995, early in Lukashenko's tenure. Some bore placards depicting Lukashenko as a mustachioed cockroach.

Although protests have taken place daily since the election, the Sunday gatherings in Minsk have been by far the largest, attracting crowds of as many as 200,000 people.

“Every Sunday, you are showing yourselves and the world that the Belarusian people are the power,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Lukashenko's main election opponent, said in a video message from Lithuania, where she is in exile.

The marchers also carried portraits of Maria...
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