Mon, 28 Sep 2020

MINSK -- A Belarus protester has died in Minsk as thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against official election results that say incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka won in a landslide.

The protester died after an unidentified explosive device blew up in his hand while he tried to throw it at the police, the Interior Ministry said, according to RFE/RL's Belarus Service. The incident occurred during a confrontation with the riot police, who had arrived to unblock a square in the Belarusian capital.

There were reports that demonstrators were being fired upon when the man died. RFE/RL's Belarus Service said several thousand people were in the area and some have attempted to build barricades.

Police reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets earlier and detained protesters as demonstrations against the result of the August 9 presidential election prompted a second day of unrest in Minsk and elsewhere in the country and Washington expressed concern over the election and the crackdown.

Dozens of demonstrators were reportedly detained in Minsk on August 10 as they assembled in the city center in a resumption of protests against the election.

The renewed demonstrations followed violent clashes between protesters and police the night before.

On August 9, some 1,000 people were detained in Minsk, and about 3,000 nationwide, after demonstrators took to the streets to protest what they called a rigged election after an exit poll showed Lukashenka winning with more than 80 percent of the vote.

Supporters of leading opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who had less than 10 percent of the vote according to preliminary official results announced by the Central Election Commission (TsVK), had announced that they would stage a mass demonstration against the official tally on August 10.

The opposition in Belarus also has called for a nationwide protest strike starting at noon local time on August 11.

In its first comment since the election, the White House said it was 'deeply concerned by the Belarus presidential election...and we urge the Belarusian government to respect the right to peaceably assemble and to refrain from the use of force.'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed that sentiment in a separate statement while urging the Lukashenka government to 'respect the rights of all Belarusians.'

'We urge the Belarusian government to respect the rights of all Belarusians to participate in peaceful assembly, refrain from use of force, and release those wrongfully detained. We strongly condemn ongoing violence against protesters and the detention of opposition supporters, as well as the use of Internet shutdowns to hinder the ability of the Belarusian people to share information about the election and the demonstrations,' Pompeo said.

Britain earlier called on Belarus to refrain from further violence against protesters following what it called the 'seriously flawed' vote, while France has urged security forces to exhibit 'the greatest restraint.'

Tsikhanouskaya -- who has rejected the results giving Lukashenka his sixth term in office and says the vote was rigged -- was not planning on taking part in the demonstrations 'to avoid provocations,' according to her campaign team.

Tsikhanouskaya, who said in Minsk on August 10 that 'I consider myself the winner in the presidential election,' explained that her opinion was based on what she called 'real protocols' collected at the majority of polling stations which, according to her, prove that she won.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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