The exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has appealed to her supporters to carry out peaceful protests across the country after she was forced to leave for Lithuania following a controversial election.
“Don’t stay on the sidelines,” she said while proposing a council to ensure the transfer of power. Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the country since 1994 but Sunday’s presidential vote was decried by European Union and United States. Protests have erupted nationwide calling for the president to leave the office. Nearly 6,700 people were taken into custody and put behind bars during ahead of election. Many have opened up about the torture they went through under the hands of security services.
As demonstrators continue to protest, the walkouts from the state factories picked the pace on Friday, EU ministers participated in an emergency video meeting and agreed to slap Belarusian officials responsible “for violence and falsifications” with the new sanctions. Amnesty International in its statement said accounts from released detainees suggest “widespread torture”.
Russia on Friday said Belarus had handed back 32 suspected mercenaries who were arrested by the country’s security last month. Authorities in Belarus claim that the men crossed the borders to sabotage Sunday’s election while Moscow maintained they were just passing through. Details of their release are not clear as of yet.
Tikhanovskaya was detained for 7 hours on Monday night as she moved outside to register a complaint about the election. She was then straightaway forced to embrace the exile. According to the results issued by Central Election Commission, Mr. Lukashenko claimed 80.1% of the vote and 10.12% was won by Tikhanovskaya.
Meanwhile, prisoners are being released from the notorious Okrestina detention facility in Minsk on Friday who are revealing their beaten and bruised bodies to media.
“They beat people ferociously, with impunity, and they arrest anyone. We were forced to stand in the yard all night. We could hear women begin beaten. I don’t understand such cruelty,” one man said he showed the BBC his bruising.
Interior Minister Yuri Karayev offered his apology and said he took the responsibility for people being injured in the violence.
Tikhanovskaya, 37 who lost in allegedly rigged election entered the presidential race after her husband was locked up on the orders of Lukashenko and barred from registering for the vote. Earlier on Tuesday she said she had left her homeland for the sake of her children and called herself as “a weak woman”.
In other developments Czech PM Andrej Babis said sanctions should be imposed on Lukashenko-run Belarus “until free and transparent elections are held in Belarus with the participation of International observers”. While Poland has announced to relax the vis restriction to provide relief to civil society in the neighborhood.