Over 100,000 demonstrators calling for the authoritarian president of Belarus to resign marched through the capital of Minsk on Sunday since the daily protests that have gripped the country entered their sixth week.
Many in the audience, which the human rights team Viasna estimated as numbering over 150,000, carried placards critical of Russia, representing concerns regarding President Alexander Lukashenko’s proposed assembly on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It’d be their first face-to-face contact since the unrest broke out in Belarus following the August 9 presidential election which officials state lent Lukashenko the sixth semester with 80% support.
Protesters and a few poll workers say the results were rigged.
Putin has said he stands ready to ship Russian authorities into Belarus when the protests turn violent, stoking fears that Moscow could utilize the political dissent as an excuse to annex its neighbor since it did in Crimea in 2014.
The states have a marriage agreement envisaging close political, military, and economic ties, though Lukashenko has repeatedly voiced concerns that Putin wants Russia to consume Belarus entirely.
Lukashenko has dominated the Eastern European state of 9.5 million individuals with an iron fist since 1994, aggressively repressing the opposition and the press.
However, the protesters’ conclusion seems powerful this moment, despite everyday detentions and reports of police beatings and abuse.
The Interior Ministry said over 400 individuals were arrested Sunday at Minsk. The ministry also reported that demonstrations happened in 16 other towns, such as Brest, in which police used water cannons from a crowd of a few thousand.
“The origin of electricity in Belarus is that the people, not Lukashenko and the Kremlin,” read placards carried by a few marchers at Minsk. “Tell me who your friends are and I shall say that who you are,” read the following which bore photographs of Lukashenko and Putin.
Authorities on Sunday setup rows of barbed wire and prisoner transfer automobiles and deployed tens of thousands of servicemen to block the city center from demonstrators, however, protesters came together beyond the middle and marched toward the presidential house on the town’s outskirts.