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Belarus protests: Police say they’ve fired live rounds at protesters as EU weighs sanctions

Belarus protests: The EU alleged that the elections were “neither free not fair” and threatened to impose sanctions against “those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results”.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 12, 2020 8:20:26 pm
Thousands in Belarus decry president's re-election as riggedCrowds have taken to the streets every night since to demand a recount. (AP Photo)

Days after the re-election of Belarus’ long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko, following a highly-controversial campaign and election, the European Union’s foreign policy chief has announced that the bloc will be meeting on Friday to review the situation in the country.

Meanwhile, the streets of Belarus’ capital Minsk and several other cities were overrun by protesters for a third consecutive night. The demonstrations grew more heated after several opposition leaders, including the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, were forced to leave the country and many others were imprisoned.

In a video shared on YouTube Tuesday, Tikhanovskaya indicated that she had been threatened by the country’s leadership, BBC reported. “God forbid you face the kind of choice that I faced,” she said. “Children are the most important thing in our lives.” She is now “safe” in Lithuania, according to the country’s foreign minister.

Read: Protester dies in clashes after disputed Belarus vote

Violent clashes have broken out between protesters and law enforcement authorities over the last few days. Police on Tuesday were seen using stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse growing crowds of demonstrators.

According to the Belarusian interior ministry, more than 6,000 demonstrators were arrested by riot police during the last three days of continuous protests against vote-rigging in the country, the Guardian reported. At least one protester has died and many have been injured, as per reports.

Belarus president coronavirus, Alexander Lukashenko, Alexander Lukashenko coronavirus, coronavirus news, coronavirus latest update, indian express Belarus protests: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko writes review as he his visits the military base in the town of Maryina Gorka, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Minsk, Belarus, Friday, July 24, 2020. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

According to the country’s election commission, President Alexander Lukashenko secured 80 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s poll. However, many have accused the 65-year-old leader of committing fraud and rigging votes.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1994, has derided the political opposition as “sheep” manipulated by foreign masters and vowed to continue taking a tough position on protests.

Here are the latest developments from Belarus:

EU foreign ministers to hold meeting to review situation in Belarus

European Union (EU) foreign ministers are set to meet on Friday to review the situation in Belarus, Lebanon, as well as the Eastern Mediterranean, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on Wednesday.

“We will discuss urgent issues and address the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Belarus presidential elections as well as developments in Lebanon,” Borrell tweeted.

EU threatens to reimpose sanctions

The European Union Tuesday alleged that the elections in Belarus were “neither free not fair” and threatened to impose sanctions against “those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results”, AFP reported.

“We call on Belarusian political leadership to initiate a genuine and inclusive dialogue with broader society to avoid further violence. The EU will continue to support a democratic, independent, sovereign, prosperous and stable Belarus,” read a statement released on behalf of all 27 member states.

Belarusians should have freedoms they are demanding, says Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Condemning how the recent election was carried out in Belarus, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the people of the country should have the freedoms that they are demanding, AFP reported.

Pompeo on Tuesday said that the election was not “free and fair” and criticised the government for launching an attack on protesters and arresting opposition supporters.

Belarus police opened fire at protesters in Brest, says interior ministry

Protester dies in clashes after disputed Belarus vote Belarus protests: Police use smoke grenades during a protest after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, late Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. (AP Photo)

Amidst rising tensions between protesters and riot police across Belarus, the interior ministry has said that the police fired live bullets when they were attacked by demonstrators in the city of Brest.

According to the ministry, protester carrying metal rods targeted the officers, BBC reported. At least one person was reported wounded, as per reports.

As many was 1,000 protesters were arrested by law enforcement authorities today, Reuters reported. At least 2,000 were arrested yesterday and 3,000 were imprisoned during the first night of protests.

’30 journalists detained’

Nearly 30 journalists are among those detained, the Belarusian Association of Journalists said Wednesday. Three already were sentenced to 10 to 15 days of administrative arrest and 25 more remain in custody, awaiting their turn to face a court.

During the protests on Tuesday night, reporters from several Belarusian and international outlets were beaten up. Officers seized memory cards from a group of photographers, including one for The Associated Press, as they took shots of the police crackdown.

“A deliberate hunt for journalists with independent Belarusian and foreign media has begun,” said Boris Goretsky, vice president of the journalists’ association.

(With inputs from AFP, AP, Reuters, agencies)

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