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‘We Just Want Him to Leave’: Protests Persist Against Belarus’s Leader

2020-08-23 16:05:41
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MINSK, Belarus — One day after President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus promised to crush with an iron fist the protests that have broken out since his re-election this month, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Minsk, on Sunday to show their determination to force him out of office.

After a week of rallies and publicity stunts in support of Mr. Lukashenko, who has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic, since 1994, many expected the protests against him to ebb. But by late Sunday afternoon, a sea of people had filled the main Independence Avenue in central Minsk, blocking all traffic there and on side streets.

Some estimates put the number of demonstrators at well over 100,000, in what appeared to be a repeat of a similar rally a week earlier.

Although Mr. Lukashenko declared a landslide victory and 80 percent of the vote in the Aug. 9 election, protesters and international bodies, including the European Union, have called it fraudulent. The main opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, also declared victory and fled to neighboring Lithuania out of fear for her safety.

“I doesn’t matter what flag it is, we just want him to leave,” said Darya O. Rolya, 28, an accountant.

It was unclear how the protesters could achieve that aim, with Mr. Lukashenko having indicated repeatedly that he has no intention of succumbing to pressure from the streets.

“This situation forces us Belarusians to unite,” said Igor Y. Andryushko, 37, a worker at Minsk Tractor Works, one of the main sites of the worker protests. “I don’t want it to take a violent turn. I think everything will end peacefully.”

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