News / Europe

Belarus Opposition Attacks Government Building After Election

A demonstrator, wrapped in a white-red-white national flag, banned under authoritarian president Alexander Lukasheno, lies on the ground in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010.
A demonstrator, wrapped in a white-red-white national flag, banned under authoritarian president Alexander Lukasheno, lies on the ground in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010.
James Brooke

A massive demonstration against alleged vote rigging in Belarus' presidential election turned violent Sunday after protesters tried to storm a government building housing the country's Central Election Commission.  

Moving between Christmas trees and a massive statue of Vladimir Lenin, protesters broke windows and glass doors.  In a counter attack, riot police poured out of the darkened building poured, beating and injuring dozens of protesters with clubs.  Police detained hundreds of people, including three presidential candidates.

The late night violence came after the largest demonstration in more than a decade against Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus's president since 1994.

Chanting "Freedom for Belarus" and "Down with Lukashenko," a crowd gathered in October Square immediately after polls closed. Opposition speakers charged that Lukashenko had run a fraudulent election, controlling the vote counting machinery.

A few hours earlier, Mr. Lukashenko predicted on national television that no one would turn out for the rally. "Don't worry," he said.  "No one is going to be on that square," he said.

During the afternoon, access was denied to the Internet websites of the two leading opposition presidential candidates - Andrei Sannikov and Vladimir Neklyaev - and to the website of Charter 97, a Belarus human rights group.

Mr. Neklyaev never made it to October Square.  Police attacked the candidate as he led a small group to the demonstration.  An aide, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Alexander, said he escaped the violence.

Alexander said the police ordered them face down in the snow, then beat Mr. Neklyaev so badly that he was taken to the hospital with a concussion.

Another aide, Vasilli asked, "What kind of democracy is this where they beat up the future president before a ballot box has even been opened?"

Despite the attack, an estimated 40,000 Belarussians made it to the square.  Authorities tried to drown out their speeches by playing Soviet era music through loudspeakers.  The crowd pushed aside traffic policemen and flowed down Independence Avenue.

Andrei Sannikov, another presidential candidate, led the march to the government administration building. "Our goal is now the Central Election Committee," he said.

Mr. Sannikov was detained after he led the march.

Cars honked their horns in solidarity as the marchers poured down the eight lane central avenue.  No windows were broken.  No graffiti was sprayed.  Protesters seemed jubilant with the massive turnout -- the largest demonstration that many said they had ever seen in this tightly controlled nation.

Sasha, a retired 70 year old factory worker, said he had come out because he was disgusted with the fraud he saw as an election observer. He said that 70 valid ballots disappeared from the polling station he was monitoring.

President Lukashenko says he wanted to conduct an election that would be deemed fair in the West.  The European Union has offered up to $4 billion in credits to Belarus on the condition that the country hold a free and fair presidential election.

For Europe, the main Western observer group is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has sent 400 observers here.  On Monday, the OSCE is expected to give its report on the election.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid