An estimated 100,000 marched in the Belarusian capital Minsk today, holding a “People’s Inauguration” of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the likely winner of the rigged presidential election of 9 August. Despite the rain and intensifying repressions by Lukashenka’s regime, the high turnout comparable to that of the previous weeks indicates that on the 50th consecutive day of protests, the Belarusians still have the fighting spirit.
The topic of this march mocks this week’s “secret inauguration” of self-proclaimed president Alyaksandr Lukashenka, held without prior announcement behind closed doors. Despite the secrecy, protests erupted and were brutally suppressed by riot police. Many states declared they will not recognize Lukashenka as the rightfully elected president of Belarus.
Below are photos from the march in Minsk, taken by photographers of the Belarusian media tut.by. The signs say “Svitlana is our rightful president,” “We give you [Lukashenka] the right to dump us,” “Let my people go.” Crowns and regal attire are worn to mock the “last dictator of Europe” Lukashenka’s 26-year-long presidency:
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya expressed her support to Belarusians on the 50th day of the protests. She pointed out that she is proud of her people, who have been protesting for 50 days already trying to stop the regime, and who have been doing so peacefully.
“Democracy means the power of the people. And the entire nation is stronger than a single man because people are fighting for their rights, for their future, and the future of their children. We are millions, and we are ready to take responsibility for our decisions. That’s why we shall win,” she wrote in her Telegram channel.
Traditionally, traffic in Minsk was blocked, mobile internet was down, and protests were marred by arrests by Lukashenka’s siloviki. This day, they took the effort to mask themselves with the help of sunglasses. This was probably in response to a video promising to deanonymize the police officers with the help of artificial intelligence. Lukashenka’s unpopularity and the brutalities committed by law enforcers cracking down on protesters has stigmatized police employees, who fear of being uncovered.
The promise to deanonymize OMON and police officers, with the help of artificial intelligence systems, got the better of Luka's accomplices even though it was far from sunny today. pic.twitter.com/PIeB4FRLnE
— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) September 27, 2020
Protests were held in other cities as well. In Homiel, the police used flashband grenades, sprayed tear gas directly into protesters’ eyes and shot into the air several times.
Sept 27. Brutal detentions in #Homiel, second largest city of #Belarus: siloviki teargased participants in People's Inauguration March, used flashbang grenades, fired in air (+videos): https://t.co/z9QMQ6chOd #BelarusProtest pic.twitter.com/ROdbjCbPXX
— Belsat in English (@Belsat_Eng) September 27, 2020
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) September 27, 2020
There was a confrontation with the police in Mahilau, Grodna, and Zhodino.
Saligorsk, Baranavici, Vavkavysk, Babruisk, Kobryn, Zhabinka, Lida, Smargon and other cities came out to protest as well.
The Viasna human rights center informed that at least 230 were detained throughout Belarus.
Protests against rigged elections in Belarus, where Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed a sweeping victory, started on 9 August and have continued ever since, joined by a nationwide strike movement. They have been marked by mass detentions and reports of torture at detention centers. At least two protesters have been killed. The excessive use of violence by Belarusian riot police has been criticized internationally.
According to the Viasna human rights center, the total number of activists, bloggers, and protesters detained before the 9 August election was 1,700; after the election – some 12,000. That’s nearly 14,000 this year, an unprecedented number:
On 17 September, members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution rejecting the official results of the “so-called presidential elections” in Belarus, welcoming the recently established Coordination Council as an “interim representation of the people demanding democratic change” in Belarus, reiterated calls for new, free and fair elections to take place as soon as possible under international supervision, and called for sanctions against the Belarusian regime. After Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a “secret inauguration” on 23 September, a publicly unannounced event where only members of his nomenklatura were present, leaders of many democratic countries stated they will not recognize him as president.
Most members of the Coordination Council are currently jailed or expelled; Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who the protesters believe is the real winner of the presidential election, left Belarus against her will, while her senior associate Maria Kalesnikava is currently jailed after having resisted a forced deportation to Ukraine.
A parallel vote count has revealed that Lukashenka’s claimed 80.1% victory is statistically impossible.