(MINSK, Belarus) — Authorities in Belarus have blocked greater than 50 information media web sites reporting on how the nation has been shaken by two weeks of protests demanding that authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko resign after 26 years in energy.
The Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists reported the shutdowns Saturday, which included websites for the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty and Belsat, a Polish-funded satellite tv for pc TV channel specializing in neighboring Belarus.
On Friday, the state publishing home stopped printing two prime impartial newspapers, the Narodnaya Volya and Komsomolskaya Pravda, citing an gear malfunction.
Protests unprecedented in Belarus for his or her measurement and length broke out after the Aug. 9 presidential election, which election officers say handed Lukashenko a sixth time period in workplace in a landslide. Protesters allege the official outcomes are fradulent and are calling for Lukashenko to resign.
Police responded harshly within the first days of the protests, arresting some 7,000 individuals and harshly beating lots of them. However the police crackdown solely widened the scope of the protests, and anti-government strikes have been referred to as at a few of the nation’s foremost factories, former bases of help for Lukashenko. Some police have posted movies of themselves burning their uniforms and quitting.
In an unlimited present of defiance, an estimated 200,000 protesters rallied Aug. 16 within the capital, Minsk. Lukashenko’s foremost election challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has referred to as for one more huge present of opposition at a protest Sunday.
“We’re nearer than ever to our dream,” she stated in a video message from Lithuania, the place she took refuge after the election. Some earlier presidential challengers in Belarus have been jailed for years.
Public exhibits of help for Lukashenko, who has dominated Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, have been comparatively modest. A professional-government rally in Minsk on Aug. 16 attracted a few quarter as many individuals because the protest march. On Saturday, solely about 25 individuals confirmed up for a bicycle journey to point out help for the president.
On Saturday, tons of of ladies wearing white fashioned a sequence in Minsk as signal of protest and a bigger demonstration was anticipated within the night.
“Threats, intimidation, blocking not work. A whole lot of hundreds of Belarusians are telling him ‘go away” from all corners and squares,”stated Anna Skuratovich, one of many ladies within the chain.
Protesters say they’re fed up with the nation’s declining residing requirements and have been angered at Lukashenko’s dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lukashenko alleges that the protests are impressed by Western forces together with america and that NATO is deploying forces close to Belarus’ western border. The alliance firmly denies that declare.
On Saturday, Lukashenko renewed the allegation throughout a go to to a army train within the Grodno area, close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania.
“You see that they’re already dragging an ‘different president’ right here,” he stated, referring to Tsikhanouskaya. “Army help is obvious — the motion of NATO troops to the borders.”
Lukashenko later spoke to a rally of a number of thousand supporters in Grodno, the place he threatened to shut factories which might be on strike as of Monday. Strikes have hit a few of the nation’s main firms, together with car and fertilizer producers, a possible blow to the largely state-controlled economic system.
Authorities on Friday threatened demonstrators with felony expenses in a bid to cease the protests. Investigators additionally summoned a number of opposition activists for questioning as a part of a felony probe right into a council they created with the purpose of coordinating a transition of energy for the previous Soviet republic of 9.5 million.
Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.