One man died in violent protests in Belarus as thousands took to the streets late on Monday, in the capital of Minsk, saying President Alexander Lukashenko stole the election to bag a sixth term of office.
Reports said opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled Belarus and is safe in Lithuania.
In a video to her supporters, she apologized saying it was her choice to leave the country and urged protesters to respect the law and not resort to violence in a strange about turn, after challenging the election results and her party’s apparent 10 percent share of the vote just Saturday past.
EU and NATO member Lithuania, once also part of the Soviet Union, has a history of granting refuge to Belarusian and Russian opposition figures and exiles.
Belarus however is not a member of the E.U.
At a flash-point in Minsk, protesters, mostly men but also several women, used sacks, buckets and metal barriers to build barricades.
One of the protesters tried to throw an unidentified explosive device at members of law enforcement, which exploded in a man’s hand, who since died of his injuries.
President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years, since 1994, earning the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator”.
Meanwhile the beleaguered president has accused foreigners of meddling in the country’s election campaign and its aftermath.
“I warned that there wouldn’t be a Maidan, however much some people want that,” Lukashenko said on Monday, referring to a popular uprising in Ukraine that toppled a pro-Kremlin leader in 2014. “People need to settle down, calm down.”
He makes an interesting point linking Belarus to Maidan.
Ukraine’s troubles are not over, despite the successful U.S. backed revolution to remove the Russian-backed premier six years ago.
In July, Russian-led forces attacked the Ukrainian defense in the East near Zaitseve, killing two service members; in fact, there has been an upsurge in violent clashes this year alone.
Crackdown in Belarus
A further 700 people have been arrested in the latest protests.
Protesters again rallied in Belarus’ capital and other cities on Wednesday.
There are fears for the well-being of those held in custody, amid reports of abuses.
Officials confirmed on Wednesday night that a second protester had died amid the unrest since Sunday’s vote.
A deliberate hunt for journalists with independent Belarusian and foreign media has begun, said the vice president of the Belarusian journalists association.
On Wednesday, Vital Tsyhankou, a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was severely beaten by police and detained along with two reporters from an independent Belarusian TV station after covering a protest against police violence.
The E.U is considering sanctions against those responsible for the fiasco in Belarus with America’s Mike Pompeo joining the chorus of disapproval.