2 Belarus opposition activists detained in the capital - InfoNews

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2 Belarus opposition activists detained in the capital

August 24, 2020 - 2:46 AM

MINSK, Belarus - Belarusian authorities on Monday detained two leading opposition activists who have helped spearhead a wave of protests demanding the resignation of the country's authoritarian ruler of 26 years.

The opposition’s Coordination Council said its members Sergei Dylevsky and Olga Kovalkova were detained by police in the capital, Minsk. City police confirmed their detention.

The move signals President Alexander Lukashenko’s determination to stifle the massive demonstrations that have entered their third week. It comes a day after the 65-year-old Belarusian leader toted an assault rifle in a show of force as he arrived at his residence by helicopter as protesters rallied nearby.

Last week, Lukashenko's warned the council created to negotiate a transition of power that it could face criminal accusations for creating what he described as a parallel government. The Belarusian prosecutors then opened a criminal inquiry into the council members on charges of undermining national security, claims rejected by the council's members.

The detention of opposition activists follows Sunday's demonstration in Minsk that drew an estimated 200,000 people pushing for President Alexander Lukashenko to step down following the Aug. 9 election, which the opposition saw as rigged. The previous Sunday saw a similar number of demonstrators, the largest the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people ever saw.

Video on Sunday showed Lukashenko getting off his helicopter with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle. No ammunition clip was visible in the weapon, suggesting that Lukashenko, who cultivates an aura of machismo, aimed only to make a show of aggression.

He commented to his aides that the protesters “ran away like threats” and then thanked riot police who encircled the residence for safeguarding it.

“We will deal with them,” he said about the demonstrators.

The protests were galvanized by a brutal post-election crackdown, which saw nearly 7,000 people detained and hundreds injured after police dispersed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, stun grenades and clubs. As crowds of protesters swelled amid public outrage, the authorities backed off and let demonstrations go unhindered. However, the authorities again beefed up police cordons around the city since last week and threatened opposition activists with criminal charges.

The demonstrators approached the edges of the presidential residence grounds, but stopped after encountering lines of police in full riot gear and dispersed shortly after as the evening came amid rain.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the political turmoil in Belarus at https://www.apnews.com/Belarus

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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