Sunday June 20th, 2021 3:13PM

Belarus' opposition challenger urges UN action amid protests

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Hundreds of students, information technology workers and others rallied again in Belarus' capital Friday to protest the disputed reelection of the nation's authoritarian president, while the main opposition challenger in the vote urged the United Nations to help end the crackdown on protests.

Information technology workers and other protesters formed “chains of solidarity” in various parts of Minsk to keep pushing for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, who extended his 26-year rule in an Aug. 9 election that the opposition challenged as rigged.

Belarusians have turned out in en masse for nearly four weeks to protest the official election results that gave Lukashenko a sixth term with 80% of the vote.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger in the vote, addressed Friday's meeting of the U.N. Security Council via video link, asking it to “stop blatant human rights violations and cynical disregard for human dignity right in the middle of Europe.”

She accused Lukashenko of stealing the election and asked the U.N. to condemn the crackdown on protesters, send a monitoring mission to Belarus and call a special session of its Human Rights Council to discuss the situation in the country.

“I call on the international community to use all mechanisms to stop the violence, including sanctions on the individuals that committed electoral violations and crimes against humanity,” she said.

During the first few days of post-election protests, police detained nearly 7,000 people and beat hundreds, drawing international outrage and causing the anti-government demonstrations to swell. The government has since shifted tactics, seeking to squelch protests with threats, the selective detention of protesters and the prosecution of activists.

On Friday, police entered the State Linguistics University in Minsk to disperse an action by students who were expressing solidarity with classmates detained earlier. Officers rounded up several participants.

Later in the day, hundreds of students rallied in front of the university in a show of defiance, chanting “Shame!”

In another part of the city, hundreds of IT workers formed a human chain outside the High Technology Park a day after the authorities raided one of the companies there and detained several workers, including its top manager who was accused of financial abuses.

“Searches and arrests at big IT companies only cause a wave of solidarity and fuel protest,” said IT expert Dmitry Boronovsky. “The Belarusians have felt the taste of freedom and will never agree to return to the dictatorship.”

Earlier on Friday, several government websites were attacked by hackers, who added Lukashenko and his interior minister to the list of wanted criminal suspects posted on the Interior Ministry's page.

In recent years, Belarusian authorities have sought to promote the IT sector in a bid to diversify the Soviet-style economy relying mostly on aging heavy industries. It has expanded quickly over the past few years thanks to tax breaks and other benefits, generating a growing chunk of government revenues.

The High Technology Park in Minsk houses 750 IT companies that employ 58,000 people and currently account for more than 6% of the nation's GDP.

When the post-election protests erupted, IT workers were quick to join the demonstrations. Many talked about their plans to leave the country, saying they wouldn't continue their work amid the crackdown on the opposition.

Last month, dozens of top IT entrepreneurs put out an open letter, warning authorities that repression against dissent would trigger massive brain drain.

“Trampling on the law will bring nothing good,” they said. “If it continues, thousands of talented IT experts will leave the country together with their families in the next few months. Belarus is in big trouble, dreams about its future are dying before our eyes."

A leading IT company, EPAM, has launched a training program that offers IT careers to people who lost jobs because of their support for the opposition.

Seeking to stem the tide of protests, Belarusian authorities have specifically targeted members of the Coordination Council that opposition activists set up after the election to try to negotiate a transition of power. Two of its members were given 10-day jail sentences on charges of staging unsanctioned protests last week, and a court in Minsk handed them new 15-day sentences Thursday.

Earlier this week, six Belarusian journalists were detained while covering a student demonstration and charged with taking part in unsanctioned protests. During a Friday court hearing, police officers in ski masks testified against them via a video link. The court handed them three-day sentences, the time they already have spent in custody.

Dozens of colleagues met them outside the court as they walked out, chanting “Freedom!”

Authorities also have revoked the accreditation of many Belarusian journalists and deported some foreign journalists, including two Moscow-based Associated Press journalists. AP’s Belarusian journalists were among those told their press credentials had been revoked.

On Thursday, two popular TV anchors who resigned from state TV in solidarity with the protesters were handed 10-day sentences for taking part in unauthorized rallies.

“They beat journalists, they put them on trial, strip them of their credentials and deport them from the country,” Andrei Bastunets, head of the Belarusian Associaton of Journalists, told The Associated Press. “The law doesn’t work, they accuse journalists with cameras of coordinating the protests.”

The United States and the European Union have criticized the Aug. 9 presidential election as neither free nor fair and urged Belarusian authorities to engage in a dialogue with the opposition, a demand Lukashenko has dismissed.

“We’ve made very clear that this election was not a real election. It was fraudulent; it wasn’t fair,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday in an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, adding that the U.S. is working with its European partners to ensure basic freedoms for the Belarusian people.

Facing Western criticism, the Belarusian leader has sought to secure support from Russia, which has a union agreement with Belarus envisaging close political, economic and military ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is ready to send police to Belarus at Lukashenko’s request if the demonstrations turn violent.

On a visit to Moscow on Friday, the Belarusian defense minister accused the West of waging a “hybrid war against the Belarusian state,” applying unprecedented diplomatic, political and economic pressure.


Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow AP's coverage of Belarus at https://apnews.com/Belarus

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Serbia, Kosovo normalize economic ties, gesture to Israel
President Donald Trump has announced that Serbia and Kosovo have normalized economic ties as part of U.S.-brokered talks
1:25PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Pentagon orders shutdown of Stars and Stripes newspaper
The Pentagon has ordered the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, to cease publication at the end of the month
1:19PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Belarus' opposition challenger urges UN action amid protests
Hundreds of students, information technology workers and others are rallying again in Belarus’ capital to protest the disputed reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko
1:14PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump denies calling US war dead 'losers,' 'suckers'
President Donald Trump is defending himself against accusations that he mocked American war dead
11:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
Kosovo, Serbia normalize economic ties, gesture to Israel
Serbia and Kosovo announced Friday at the White House that they have normalized economic ties
11:45AM ( 1 hour ago )
Students, IT workers keep pressure on defiant Belarus leader
Hundreds of demonstrators have rallied again in Belarus’ capital to protest the disputed reelection of the nation’s authoritarian president, while police dispersed university students attempting to show solidarity with peers who were detained earlier in the week
9:16AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Trump mocks the way Biden wears his mask
President Donald Trump is mocking his Democratic rival for letting his mask hang off his ear when he delivers speeches
8:03PM ( 17 hours ago )
Trump, allies beating path to battleground Pennsylvania
President Donald and his campaign are feeling new optimism about Pennsylvania with just two months to go before Election Day
7:13PM ( 18 hours ago )
Trump suggests polling place double-check for mail-in voters
Election experts are taking issue with President Donald Trump's suggestion that people who vote early by mail should vote again at their polling place if their ballot hasn't been counted
7:01PM ( 18 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
UN begins pullout from South Sudan civilian protection camps
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan says it has begun withdrawing its troops and police from the civilian protection camps that began as a frantic experiment in the heat of civil war and still shelter more than 180,000 people two years after the conflict ended
12:42PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Survivor search grips a grieving Beirut a month after blast
People throughout Lebanon observed a moment of silence to mark one month since the devastating Beirut explosion
12:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
IAEA: Iran continues to expand stockpile of enriched uranium
The U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency says Iran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium, in violation of limitations set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers
12:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
The Latest: Berlusconi in Milan hospital with coronavirus
Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive this week for the coronavirus, has been hospitalized in Milan
11:54AM ( 1 hour ago )
Stocks head lower on Wall Street a day after tech sell-off
Stocks are falling again on Wall Street Friday, a day after a big slump in technology companies pulled the market to its biggest drop since June
10:30AM ( 3 hours ago )
Scandal-tarnished Nissan shows off production innovation
Nissan says it has developed a new way to produce high-tech auto parts that highlights the Japanese automaker’s engineering finesse, even as it faces a criminal trial in an ongoing scandal involving former Chairman Carlos Ghosn
10:22AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Myrtle Beach, SC, extends virus mask mandate
A South Carolina beach town has renewed its mask mandate
8:18AM ( 5 hours ago )
Freight firms warn of Brexit disruption amid UK-EU deadlock
British freight haulers and storage companies are asking for an urgent meeting with government leaders because of concern that gaps in preparations for Brexit may threaten supplies of critical goods
7:22AM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: Hungary registers highest daily spike with 459
Hungary has registered 459 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic
5:58AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Serbia, Kosovo normalize economic ties, gesture to Israel
President Donald Trump has announced that Serbia and Kosovo have normalized economic ties as part of U.S.-brokered talks
1:25PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Pentagon orders shutdown of Stars and Stripes newspaper
The Pentagon has ordered the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, to cease publication at the end of the month
1:19PM ( 13 minutes ago )
'I Am Greta' gives fuller portrait of teen climate activist
A documentary on teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, making its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, is seeking to remind a world consumed with the coronavirus crisis that the climate crisis is just as urgent and isn’t going away
1:14PM ( 18 minutes ago )
The Latest: WHO chief: Won't recommend vaccines unless safe
The head of the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency won’t recommend any coronavirus vaccine before it is proved safe and effective
1:10PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Lionel Messi says he is staying with Barcelona this season
Lionel Messi says he will stay with Barcelona for the upcoming season
1:08PM ( 24 minutes ago )