The situation after the presidential election in Belarus is tense, and the scale of repression being carried out by the police unprecedented, according to Alesh Bialacki, the chief of the Belarusian human rights organization Wiasna.
Bialacki, in an interview with the Polish Press Agency (PAP), reported that protests against the rigged election took place in 30 Belarusian cities.
According to ministry of interior sources, 3,000 people were detained, including 1,000 in Minsk.
“There were clashes with OMON special forces. The protests were dispersed with thousands out on the streets and many people riding around in their cars sounding their horns all night long,“ Bialacki said.
He felt that these protests were unprecedented in their scale, but so was the repression in response to them.
Bialacki assessed the level of dissatisfaction and propensity to protest as very high, despite the authorities’ readiness to use force.
“In Minsk for the first time there have been rubber bullet rounds, water cannon, tear gas, and sound grenades used by the authorities to frighten the public,” he said.
Bialacki doesn’t believe that Lukashenko will negotiate and believes that more repression is likely. Given the outrage over election fraud and Lukashenko’s stubborn response, confrontation is inevitable.
The activist noted that Lukashenko, now openly referred to as a dictator, was now trying to make out that all the protests are managed out of Poland and Czechia and that Ukrainians and Russians are involved too.
“We seem to be surrounded by enemies,” mocked Bialacki.
The human rights activist also said that the demonstrators detained were being investigated for rioting, an offense which carries a sentence range of between 5 and 15 years imprisonment.
Bialacki confirmed that social media such as Facebook and Vkontakte are still being blocked.
He felt that regardless of whether protests will intensify, the president will not any longer be seen as a legitimate ruler.
Title image: Protesters stay in a line during a protest after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 9, 2020, AP.