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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs