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22 Nov, 2020 16:29

Authorities clash with protesters in Belarus as exiled Tikhanovskaya warns riot police could be listed as ‘terrorists’ by EU

Authorities clash with protesters in Belarus as exiled Tikhanovskaya warns riot police could be listed as ‘terrorists’ by EU

Thousands have taken to the streets for another weekend of protests in Belarus. Stun grenades were fired at the crowds, while opposition figures abroad have been pressuring Western leaders to increase sanction pressure on Minsk.

Anti-government protesters gathered across the country on Sunday, with local media reporting arrests among the demonstrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has confirmed non-lethal riot control weapons were used against those resisting arrest.

The protests have been running continuously since August when veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko declared he had won re-election in a vote that the opposition and many international observers say was rigged in his favor. Since then, Belarus, which has a scant history of civil disorder, has been paralysed by strikes, direct action and a crackdown by authorities.

On Saturday, opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced she was working with EU members in an attempt to designate the country’s top law enforcement agencies as “terrorist organisations.” Under the plans, those working for the country’s specialist riot police, OMON, and the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption would face personal sanctions for their involvement. 

Tikhanovskaya, who claims to be the rightful winner of the election, has continued to seek the support of foreign governments in ousting Lukashenko. After fleeing to neighbouring Lithuania in the days after the vote, she has since embarked on a tour of EU capitals, meeting with leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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She met with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stefan Blok on Friday to discuss the proposed sanctions. Local media report the diplomat was supportive and expressed his readiness to move forward with the initiative.

In a statement on Telegram, Tikhanovskaya announced that, if successful, “all employees who do not quit before the end of the investigation will be recognized as accomplices and will receive sanctions and seizure of property.” However, she claimed, “those security officials who go over to the side of the people can count on amnesty.”

Lukashenko and senior figures in his government have already been the subject of a package of sanctions and measures from EU countries. The embattled leader has refused to give in to demands for new elections, having described opposition activists as “puppets,” and Western countries their “masters.”

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