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Belarus president accuses opposition of coup

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Lukashenko

In the face of rising protests against his attempts to cling on to power, the president has called this a foreign-influenced coup.

When the opposition leader in exile, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya launched a “coordination council” to facilitate a peaceful transition of power, President Alexander Lukashenko promptly called this a definite attempt to seize power and that came with consequences. He threatened action against the 35 people appointed to this council, which includes artists, writers and business people, promising to “cool those hotheads”.

President Lukashenko, dubbed ‘Europe’s last dictator’, is watching his 24-year-old grip on the country crumble since the elections earlier this month. Despite overwhelming public support for his opposition, the election results showed that Lukashenko had won with 80% of the votes while Tikhanovskaya had come a distant second with 10% of the votes. These numbers were immediately rejected by large sections of the population who have been coming out to the streets every day for the past 10 days.

There has been a brutal quelling of protests with violence, arrests and even tortures being reported. The president recently awarded medals of service to security officers who have been cracking down on demonstrators.

Despite this, thousands of people are gathering in various cities of Belarus every day, staging strikes and walkouts and calling for the president to step down. Over 100,000 people came together in the capital of Minsk flying the red and white colours of the opposition.

Workers in factories, media and government departments have gone on strikes, affecting the normal functioning of the country. Staff at state-run channels staged a walkout in solidarity with the protestors and against media censorship. Instead of regular programmes, channels showed empty desks and reruns. In national mines, workers walked out in the hundreds, standing outside and demanding fresh elections.

But the president shows no signs of relenting. Addressing a group of factory workers who were chanting for him to “leave”, he said there will not be fresh elections “until you kill me”. He said he is prepared to share power and change the constitution but he will not do it out of pressure from the streets. He said he was no saint and everyone knew how tough he could be. He wouldn’t give up the country to anyone, he said.

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