August 17, 2020
We provide translations of articles from the Belarusian independent media in 6 languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Polish.
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Presidential elections were held in Belarus on August 9. This is the 6th election in which Aliaksandr Lukashenka has been declared the winner (1994, 2001, 2006, 2010, 2015, 2020). This mean that Lukashenka has been president of Belarus continuously for 26 years, while his main opponents often find themselves behind bars on criminal charges.
Presidential opponents were arrested early on in the 2020 election campaign, including famous blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski who was locked up in May after a provocation at a rally, with state media later reporting that $900,000 had been found behind his sofa.
His wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, decides to run for the presidency in his place and registers as a candidate. After other popular candidates – Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala – are arrested and threatened and their registrations denied, their campaign staff unite around Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and hold pre-election campaign rallies in different cities of Belarus, bringing together huge numbers of people calling for change. On election day citizens of Belarus notice electoral procedure violations, such as ballot staffing, absence of observers, inability to vote at the country’s embassies abroad.
CEC Chairperson Lidzija Jarmoshyna declares the elections valid and Aliaksandr Lukashenka the winner with 80.1% of votes cast, provoking mass protests across the country.
Important Events of the Week
1. Independent observers detained.
Starting with early voting, Belarusian independent observers were not allowed to enter the polling stations. Their work was hindered. Members of the observer committees (mostly consisting of teachers and company representatives) called the police and OMON (riot police) on the observers. The observers were detained “for disorderly conduct.”
2. Massive protests started on election day and continue to this day.
Photo: Vadim Zamirovsky, tut.by.
3. Internet disconnected in the entire country.
”External attacks” is given as the official explanation. However, network monitoring did not indicate a single DOS attack against Belarus. Internet was unavailable from August 9 through August 11, and later functioned intermittently. Only state news sites were freely accessible.
4. Peaceful protestors violently detained throughout Belarus.
People are beaten up, bystanders are arrested. Security officials crash into passing cars. People go missing. Detainees are tortured and abused.
Photo: Vadim Zamirovsky, tut.by.
5. Flashbang and rubber bullets are used against peaceful protestors from day one.
Grenades are also thrown into residential buildings.
6. OMON deliberately detains journalists.
On one day rubber bullets were fired at people wearing “Press” vests. Some journalists were afraid to wear them afterwards.
7. People start building chains of solidarity across the country, in small villages as well as in big cities.
8. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya brings a letter of complaint to the CEC [Central Election Commission] and goes missing for 7 hours. After that, two videos appear, one of them taken in the office of Lidia Yermoshina, head of the CEC, and read from a script. In the second video message Sviatlana explains that she was currently in Lithuania, as the authorities had forced her to make a tough choice.
9. On August 10, a peaceful protestor, Aleksandr Taraikovsky, died at “Pushkinskaya” underground station. Initially, the Interior Ministry claimed that the death was caused by an explosive device, which he intended to throw at the OMON [riot police]. On August 15, the released videos and photos clearly showed that the man was shot at by government security officers.
Mstislav Chernov, TUT.BY via AP/TASS
10. Government security forces continue to brutalize peaceful protestors. Streets are filled with women dressed in white and bearing flowers, they link arms to form solidarity chains. This initiative has been ongoing for several days and is spreading across the country.
11. Belarus’ main enterprises go on strike.
12. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya calls on mayors to organize peaceful demonstrations on August 15th and 16th. Sviatlana also proposes to create a Coordination Council, which would include representatives from civil society.
13. Belarusians unite to start helping each other. Volunteers gather outside detention centers and help draw up lists of detainees. People bring food and warm clothes to the Okrestino, Zhodzino and Slutsk prisons. Unverified reports suggest that detainees are also transported from Okrestino by vans and thrown out at night on the streets.
August 12 :
14. Alexander Vikhor, who was detained in Gomel, dies in prison. He was not detained whilst at a protest, but when he was on his way to his girlfriend. Alexandr had suffered from heart failure. Following his pleas for help he was taken to a psychology and neurofeedback clinic. Doctors informed his family that there was brain swelling. However, it was a long time before the official reports were received. Later, the mother of Alexander, who was detained on August 9th, is notified by the authorities that he had died of an overdose. On August 10, he managed to call his mother from prison to say he had been detained. The young man had been nominated for a Master of Sports title in swimming.
15. Medics march in a solidarity rally, where an intensive care worker gets detained. Over 400 teachers write an open letter to the officials, the police and the OMON [riot police].
August 13th :
16. EU ambassadors lay flowers at Pushkinskaya Street, the site where the protester had lost his life.
17. Detainees are released en masse from the pre-trial detention facility. The atrocities and tortures of prisoners are revealed. Terrifying images emerge online. Many people remain in hospitals and intensive care units. About 80 people have been reported missing.
August 15 :
18. Prisoners are not given their belongings back. A number of people who went to pick up their belongings on August 15th have been detained for a second time; details of their whereabouts are not being provided.
19. Viktor Babariko is not permitted to see lawyers for a week.
20. State television employees go on strike.
21. Members of the European Parliament are not allowed to enter Belarus. They were scheduled to meet in August 15th with journalists reporting on the protest actionsprotests.
22. People are transported to Minsk from all over the country to a pro-government rally. Many are faced with a choice to participate or lose their jobs. At the rally Alexander Lukashenko claims: “I will not allow this country to be given away even if I die”.
23. People in the capital and regions descend en masse on the streets in response to the pro-government rally.
According to tut.by’s estimates, more than 200,000 people gathered in the center of Minsk, representing one tenth of the population of the city. In many cities and small towns, people also come out en masse with slogans like “Leave”, “Tribunal”, “We will not forget, we will not forgive” and other similar ones.
Photo: Photographers against.
Interactive map of protests in Belarus and solidarity actions in the world – 2020: Text 57.
The Golos platform has published an interim analysis of the election results.
The Golos Initiative provided another way of counting votes. To participate, voters had to take photos of both sides of the ballot after selecting a candidate, then send these photos to the Telegram or Viber chat bot.
Golos helped identify falsifications at many polling stations.
Official reports at 989 polling stations (17% of the total) showed Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya obtaining 393 193 votes. This represents 66.8% of the 588 622 votes she received in the presidential elections according to the CEC.
For more info: Text 51
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