Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the Belarusian capital on Sunday, kicking off the fourth week of daily protests demanding the resignation of the country’s authoritarian president after a rigged election gave him a sixth term.
The protest at the “hero city” monument in honor of Minsk’s suffering and resistance in WWII drew at least 100,000 people, according to the Nexta messaging app channel, which is a main outlet for the opposition. .
The widespread protests began after the August 9 presidential election that officials said gave President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide 80% victory over his main rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former teacher and wife of a popular jailed blogger.
Lukashenko, in office since 1994, has been defiant but harassed, unable to quell the largest and most sustained wave of protests ever in this Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people. It has refused to re-hold the elections, which both the European Union and the United States have said were neither free nor fair, and rejected offers to help mediate the situation in the Baltic nations.
Lukashenko says he has reached an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia will send security aid if requested. But Russia has seemed hesitant to get deeply involved in the Belarus unrest.
Putin and Lukashenko spoke by phone on Sunday, but a Kremlin statement gave few details of the conversation, other than noting that Putin congratulated the Belarusian leader on his 66th birthday.
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