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Belarusian Government Ups Crackdown Against Opposition Activists

By VOA News August 25, 2020

Belarusian authorities have jailed several opposition activists as part of a mounting pressure campaign against protesters who are planning more demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko to force an end to his 26-year rule.

A court on Tuesday sentenced opposition leader Sergei Dylevsky to a 10-day jail sentence, while authorities summoned other opposition activists for questioning and dozens of others to appear in court.

Courts in the capital, Minsk, are also contemplating charges against two members of a council that opposition activists formed last week to negotiate a transition of power after Lukashenko won a sixth term in office in an August 9 election that the activists and other critics allege was rigged.

Lukashenko has rejected offers of dialogue from the opposition Coordination Council, whose dozens of members represent broad areas of Belarusian society, including Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich, who has been summoned for questioning on Wednesday.

Lukashenko has said the activists who have been protesting for more than two weeks are under the control of Western nations. The authoritarian leader has also threatened to file criminal charges against council members for allegedly trying to create a parallel government.

The protests were triggered by a government crackdown shortly after the election that resulted in the detention of nearly 7,000 people. Three people were killed, and hundreds of others were hurt when police dispersed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, clubs and stun grenades.

Two other opposition supporters were found hanged in forests. Police said they committed suicide, but the opposition disputes the claim.

Belarus is a former Soviet republic. Russia is the country's top trade partner and main military ally.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian officials after meeting Monday in Lithuania with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Lukashenko's main opposition challenger in the election.

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