The election day, on August 9, would determine the fate of whether Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko, would lose the office to Tsikhanouskaya. Lukashenko, the European “dictator,” heads an authoritarian regime to govern the country. After severing ties with the USSR, in 1918, Belarus remained one of the poorest countries in Europe. Adding to this, after the coming of Lukashenko’s government, an umpteen number of human rights were denied. Expression and media were repressed, elections and balloting were corrupted. “Freedom House” has rated Belarus as “not free” in all of its global surveys since 1998.
On August 6, 3 days before the election, citizens conducted a peaceful protest, waving white ribbons and flags, in the hope of a fair election. More than 5,000 citizens engaged in this protest, which took place in Minsk. On election day, the internet in all of Belarus was partially blocked. Telegram is the only functioning platform. IT professionals confirmed that Beltelecom (the only provider of the internet in Belarus) deliberately used DPI to block the traffic. The results declared the same evening revealed a sweeping victory favoring Lukashenko’s party. Lukashenko racked up 80.23% of the votes, and Tsikhanouskaya, 9.9%. Something was definitely amiss, and the authorities didn’t take long to figure that out.
Protests immediately begun, supporters of Tsikhanouskaya stormed through the streets voicing their discontent. Though the protests started out as peaceful, it didn’t take long for it to gain momentum. With the streets bathed in red and white, thousands of citizens staged rallies in different parts of the country. Protestors started blocking the roads and building barricades, creating havoc. In an attempt to break up the protests, the police took to dropping grenades. This reckless act left many gravely injured.
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The peak of protest was seen on Sunday, where a colossal number of people gathered Minsk’s central Independence Square, filling the streets, calling for Lukashenko to step down from his Presidential office. Lukashenko landed on Independence Square, in his helicopter, looking down at the protests. He got down and was seen wearing a bulletproof vest, holding a rifle.
Regarding the protests, ABC reports, “I hoped for that many people, but wasn’t expecting this many,” Daria Nesterenko, an English teacher in the crowd said. “When there are so many together, we’re not afraid. There is no fear. I feel more afraid myself, of course, because there’s a lot of riot police around us; but I feel also the power of our people,” said Natalya, 38. “For two weeks we protest every day and I believe we will win.”
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