MINSK, Belarus — Belarus’ authoritarian chief threatened Wednesday to deliver felony fees towards opposition leaders and known as on his safety providers to get more durable on demonstrators — a attainable harbinger of a renewed crackdown on the peaceable protests difficult the extension of his 26-year rule.
President Alexander Lukashenko additionally accused the West of fomenting the unrest as he sought to consolidate his grip on energy amid widening demonstrations.
Lukashenko spoke because the European Union rejected the official outcomes of the Aug. 9 vote that stored him in workplace and expressed solidarity with protesters. The EU mentioned it’s getting ready sanctions towards Belarusian officers accountable for the brutal post-election police actions.
Throughout the first 4 days of protests, police detained virtually 7,000 individuals and injured lots of with rubber bullets, stun grenades and golf equipment. Not less than three protesters died.
The crackdown stirred broad outrage and helped bolster protesters’ ranks. On Sunday, an estimated 200,000 individuals rallied across the Belarusian capital’s essential sq.. The massive crowds compelled the authorities to again off, and police kept away from interfering with demonstrations over the past 5 days.
However confronted with a widening strike that engulfed the nation’s largest industrial vegetation, police moved once more Tuesday to disperse some protests. Officers briefly detained about 50 demonstrators who gathered outdoors the Minsk Tractor Manufacturing facility to assist its employees, who’ve been on strike since Monday, based on Sergei Dylevsky, chief of the manufacturing unit’s strike committee.
“Persons are on strike demanding Lukashenko’s resignation, and authorities reply with batons and riot police,” Dylevsky informed The Related Press. “Lukashenko is just not altering.”
The Inside Ministry mentioned police dispersed demonstrators who had been hampering manufacturing unit employees’ passage and detained two of them for collaborating in an unsanctioned demonstration.
Police additionally blocked all entrances to the Janka Kupala Nationwide Theater in Minsk, the place the troupe on Tuesday gave discover en masse after its director, Pavel Latushko, was fired for siding with protesters. Actors who arrived on the theater Wednesday morning weren’t allowed in.
“It’s unprecedented that within the 21st century regulation enforcement is deployed to a cultural establishment. The state of affairs speaks for itself,” mentioned Latushko, a former tradition minister and diplomat, who joined the opposition’s Coordination Council.
After the council’s first assembly Wednesday, members mentioned they might deal with launching talks with the federal government on the transition of energy. “We’re prepared for dialogue,” Latushko informed the AP.
The council known as for a brand new presidential vote organized by newly fashioned election commissions and demanded an investigation into the crackdown on protests and compensation for the victims.
“Solely a brand new election can remedy the disaster,” main council member Maria Kolesnikova mentioned.
The opposition physique consists of high associates of Lukashenko’s essential challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, in addition to rights activists and representatives of putting employees. It additionally contains the nation’s most well-known creator, Svetlana Alexievich, who gained the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature.
Tsikhanouskaya, who moved to Lithuania after the vote, mentioned in a video assertion Wednesday that the council will spearhead a peaceable transition of energy and assist put together a brand new truthful presidential election. She known as on EU leaders to assist “Belarus’ re-awakening.”
European Council President Charles Michel mentioned after chairing an emergency teleconference of the 27-nation bloc leaders that the EU doesn’t acknowledge the official vote tally and “stands in solidarity with the individuals of Belarus.” He mentioned it is going to impose sanctions on “a considerable quantity” of individuals linked to Belarus’ election fraud and violence.
Lukashenko, who has been dubbed “Europe’s final dictator” within the West, defiantly dismissed the EU criticism and informed its leaders to thoughts their very own enterprise. Belarus is just not an EU member.
“They’ve loads of their very own issues,” the 65-year-old former state farm director mentioned at a gathering with officers. “They usually shouldn’t nod at Belarus to distract consideration from these issues. These gents have a log of their eyes, however they don’t see it.”
The Belarusian chief accused the West of financing the protests and ordered regulation enforcement businesses to halt the cash flows. He additionally instructed Belarus’ State Safety Committee, which nonetheless goes below its Soviet-era identify KGB, to “observe down and cease the instigators of the unrest organizers.”
“There should be no extra unrest in Minsk,” Lukashenko mentioned. “The persons are drained. They need peace and silence.”
Undeterred by his threats, a number of hundred protesters gathered outdoors the Inside Ministry’s headquarters in heavy rain, shouting requires the minister’s resignation.
“They’re attempting to scare us,” mentioned 20-year-old demonstrator Alexander Filistovich. “Lukashenko doesn’t know different strategies, however we don’t concern.”
The Belarusian chief additionally warned members of the Coordination Council that they might face felony accountability for his or her try to create “parallel energy constructions.”
Turning to the putting blue-collar employees, Lukashenko warned that they might face dismissal and informed regulation enforcement businesses to guard manufacturing unit managers from the opposition stress.
“If some assume that the federal government has tilted and misplaced steadiness, they’re mistaken,” he mentioned. “We is not going to waver.”
Lukashenko has repeatedly spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin because the weekend, claiming that he secured the promise of safety assist if Belarus wants it. The 2 nations have an settlement that contemplates shut political, financial and army ties.
The Kremlin has warned the West towards interfering in Belarus’ affairs, however remained non-committal concerning safety assist. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned the treaty contains provisions for attainable help, however famous that “there is no such thing as a want for that now.”
Related Press writers Daria Litvinova and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Lorne Cook dinner in Brussels contributed to this report.