Updated at 20:11,29-10-2020

Thousands Of Belarusians Gather For Anti-Lukashenko Rally As Army Issues Warning


Thousands Of Belarusians Gather For Anti-Lukashenko Rally As Army Issues Warning
On Sunday, 23 August, tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in Minsk in the March of New Belarus against the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, a post-election crackdown and police brutality on peaceful protesters.

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Crowds took to the streets of the cities across the country as protests entered a 15th day amid a fresh warning from the army. Ahead of the rally, the Ministry of Defence issued a statement that the army and not the police would take responsibility for protecting national memorials from protesters.

The statement came as army personnel were spotted in Minsk. Military trucks, special equipment, water cannons, police vans, OMON (*riot police) and city police units have been pulled into the city center. Several central metro stations were closed “for security reasons”.

Trucks and buses with security forces are at the Government House, armed people are on duty behind the building. According to various estimates, up to 250,000 people have gathered at Independence square and more are gathering at the adjacent streets.

People are singing, clapping and chanting: “Lukashenko, leave!” “Tribunal,” “Lukashenko to a paddy wagon!”, “Freedom!”.

On the Independence Square and outside the Minsk Hotel, people in plain clothes are filming the protesters. Police are calling through the loudspeakers to disperse. At some point, people observed a minute of silence to commemorate those who died in post-election crackdown.

Meanwhile, regular soldiers have been deployed on the streets of Minsk and barbed wire fence spotted at Minsk – Hero City Stella.

Some protesters are moving to State Flag Square where the Independence Palace is located. Security forces have blocked the road and entrances leading to the presidential palace. People are asking soldiers and riot policemen to drop their shields.

At about 7 pm, there have been numerous reports about the internet connection being disrupted in different parts of the city. People in the crowd have decided not approach riot police to avoid possible confrontation and moved back to Minsk Hero City Obelisk.

Several Telegram channels have reported that Alexander Lukashenko has been urgently evacuated from the Independence Palace by helicopter. However, in a video published by Lukashenko’s presidential pool channel, he has arrived at the palace in a bulletproof vest carrying a gun with no visible magazine.

In another video from a helicopter published by a Telegram channel allegedly managed by the president’s press service, Lukashenko is flying over Minsk in a bulletproof vest, looking out the window and asking a pilot to fly closer to the avenue. At 1:36, one can hear him saying “they scattered like rats!”

One more video piece shows Alexander Lukashenko coming out to security forces at the Independence Palace and thanking them for their support. “You’re absolute legends!” and “We’ll deal with them [peaceful protesters],” he says. And they respond: “We stay with you till the very end!”