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 Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More