Belarus: Lukashenka lets “popular ultimatum” pass

In the past eleven weeks of protest against the fraudulent presidential election, the Belarusians have come up with many forms of peaceful resistance. For example, women, students and retirees regularly mobilize against the ruler Alexandr Lukashenka. On Monday, pensioners marched through Minsk with students and doctors, observers estimate the number of participants at up to 8,000. An elderly woman encouraged the demonstrators by lifting a poodle in a white, red and white vest to the open window.

These protest colors again dominated the picture, older women waving white and red roses. Monday was also the first day after the end of the “popular ultimatum”, which one of the opposition leaders, Svetlana Tichanovskaya, Lukashenka, forced into exile by the regime in Lithuania in August, had put on October 13. According to this, the ruler should announce his withdrawal by midnight on Sunday evening, stop violence against demonstrators and release all political prisoners; as the latter, the human rights group “Wjasna” (Spring) currently sees a hundred people.

Otherwise, Tichanovskaya announced, “the whole country will take to the streets peacefully”, and all companies will go on strike and roads will be blocked. The regime gave the answer in its own way: on Sunday evening, after more than 100,000 people had once again marched through Minsk, noise and stun grenades were fired at demonstrators. Several people were injured and hundreds arrested.

The regime’s leverage

The Minsk poet Dmitry Strozew is one of the numerous Belarusians who are currently serving arrest sentences; he disappeared last Wednesday and only appeared on a list of detainees after a long period of uncertainty. Another poet, Eduard Akulin, was arrested on Monday morning when, according to relatives, he was in one of the numerous solidarity chains against violence that often take place in Belarus. The philosopher Olga Schparaga, who also had to serve a prison sentence that month, fled Minsk to Vilnius at the weekend; she reported on Facebook that they wanted to attach another twelve days of arrest to her, “that can’t stop at all”.

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