Nyaklyayew, Sannikaw hold rally with their supporters
Up to 2,000 people attended a campaign rally that was held in the square in front of Minsk’s main railroad station on Monday evening, featuring opposition presidential candidates Uladzimir Nyaklyayew and Andrey Sannikaw.
Mr. Nyaklyayew, leader of the "Tell the Truth!" campaign, called the rally an alternative to Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s two-day Fourth All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, which began in Minsk earlier in the day.
He read out the speech that he had planned to deliver at the Assembly but failed because he had been barred from attending it.
Mr. Nyaklyayew said that pro-democratic presidential hopefuls had really attempted to select a single candidate from among them. He noted that he had suggested that all contenders should withdraw from the race to leave Mr. Lukashenka alone on the ballot, but that suggestion had not been accepted either.
According to Mr. Nyaklyayew, pro-democratic forces’ unity was prevented by not only the political ambitions of certain contenders but also the position of political parties whose presidential nominees had to adhere to their parties’ political line.
He also said that he had accepted the proposal of Vital Rymashewski, the presidential nominee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party, to meet on December 9 to discuss a strategy of defending the real voting results.
He called on all those presence to come to Minsk’s central Kastrychnitskaya Square on the evening of December 19 for a post-election rally and ignore provocations. "Listen to those who have invited you to go there! Listen to Uladzimir Nyaklyayew!" he said.
He stressed that it would be a peaceful rally but warned that authorities might attempt to make provocations. "My people will do everything so that you will be safe," he said, adding that there would be a well-considered plan of action.
According to him, participants will demand that Lidziya Yarmoshyna would give explanations for discovered instances of election fraud, that opposition candidates be given the opportunity to appear live on TV, and that Mr. Lukashenka go out to meet with the demonstrators and "face the music."
During the rally, Messrs. Nyaklyayew and Sannikaw signed a joint appeal demanding live television time.
"Our live airtime is your voices and eyes," Mr. Sannikaw told the crowd. He said he was convinced that change would come to the country before the end of the year.
He called on Belarusians to once again "change the bald tires" on December 19.
The present government is not terrible; it is worthless, said his wife, prominent journalist Iryna Khalip. "This is a government of dullards, headed by the chief dullard," she said. "When we come to the square on December 19, the government will collapse."
She called on women to join their husbands on that date.
Other speakers included artist Alyaksey Marachkin and poet Henadz Burawkin.
Demonstrators displayed Belarus’ historically national white-red-white flags, banners of the "Tell the Truth!" campaign, and banners of Mr. Sannikaw’s group called European Belarus.
There were no police in uniform in the rally area, but there was heavy presence of plainclothesmen. Traffic police officers warned the crowd against stepping onto the roadway.
On the opposite side of the square, a small group of members of Belaya Rus and the Belarusian National Youth Union attempted to demonstrate in support of the incumbent president.