Belarus protests: Strikes expected as Lukashenko remains defiant

Fresh strikes are expected in Belarus after a weekend which saw tens of thousands take to the streets to demand the departure of long-term President Alexander Lukashenko.

Opposition leaders called for the strikes as anger grew over reports of police violence as well as alleged poll-rigging in the 9 August vote.

But the president, who claimed a landslide victory, remains defiant.

On Sunday, he called on supporters to defend their country and independence.

However, protesters came out in far larger numbers, with local, independent news site Tut.by describing the peaceful demonstration as “the largest in the history of independent Belarus”.

The wave of anger has been rising since the Central Election Commission said Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80.1% of the vote and the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10.12%.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who left for Lithuania after publicly denouncing the results, insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60% to 70%.

In a video message released on Monday, she says she is ready to become a “national leader” in order to restore calm and normality, freeing political prisoners and preparing for new elections.

Meanwhile, some 6,700 people have been arrested in the wake of the election, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of the security services.

Workers at state-run factories walked out in solidarity with the protesters last week, and more strikes are planned for this week, increasing the pressure on Mr Lukashenko, says the BBC’s Kiev correspondent, Jonah Fisher.

<<BBC>>