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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Biggest Crowd Yet Protests in Belarus

By VOA News August 16, 2020

The largest crowd so far turned out Sunday in Belarus for the ninth straight day of protests against what they say was a stolen presidential election by longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

As many as 200,000 marched in the Belarusian capital of Minsk – far outnumbering the crowd of Lukashenko supporters who also marched.

Various chants were heard from the anti-government demonstrators, including "Long Live Belarus" and demands that Lukashenko "Go away."

One banner read "Hague, take him," a reference to the headquarters of the International Criminal Court.

The marchers were supported by about 1,000 demonstrators in Prague

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis recalled how Czech protests were crushed by a Moscow-led military invasion in 1968 – the Prague Spring. But he also remembered the peaceful overthrow of communism in 1989 and called on the European Union to help in Belarus

About 50,000 Lukashenko supporters also gathered in Minsk to hear the president say he will not hold another vote after the election commission declared him the winner last week with 80% of the vote.

"NATO troops are at our gates. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and our native Ukraine are ordering us to hold new elections," Lukashenko. "I have never betrayed you and will never do so."

One Lukashenko supporter said, "Everybody suddenly has forgotten the good things he has done – there's order in the country, we don't have war or hunger."

Lukashenko took power after Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union and has been president since 1994.

The West calls him "Europe's last dictator" for his suppression of free speech and human rights and little tolerance for the opposition.

He was declared the winner of last week's presidential election with 80% of the vote to 10% for the only serious opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She entered the race after the arrest of her husband, blogger and a would-be opposition candidate Siarhei Tsikhanousky was arrested.

Tsikhanouskaya said she would never accept the results before fleeing to Lithuania for what she said was her children's safety.

Lukashenko told military chiefs Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered "comprehensive help" to "ensure the security of Belarus."

A Kremlin said in a statement that both presidents agreed the "problems" in Belarus would be "resolved soon" and the countries' ties would strengthen.

Lukashenko has long been accused of cozying up to Moscow at the expense of better ties with the West.

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