Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Minsk again today to protest against the allegedly fixed election result that returned Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to power.
The “March for Freedom” has seen Belarusian opponents of Lukashenko clash with police, after Lukashenko won last week’s electoin with 80 per cent of the vote.
At least two protesters have died in the demonstrations and Lukashenko’s opponent in the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has been forced to flee to Lithuania for her own safety.
Lukashenko held his own rally today, which was a much smaller affair than the protests contesting his 26-year reign as head of Belarus.
The President – often described as Europe’s last dictator – called his opponents “rats” at the rally and also claimed that Nato countries were stationing military personnel close to the Belarus border.
Lukashenko also said Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine had urged him to run the election again, advice which he has flatly rebuffed.
“If we kowtow to them, we will go into a tailspin,” he said.
Protests began last week shortly after Belarusian authorities declared Lukashenko had won another term by a landslide result.
There has been widespread evidence of poll rigging that has come to light since, including pictures of people stealing ballot papers from polling stations.
Tikhanovskaya claims that if the election had been conducted fairly then she would have won with more than 60 per cent of the vote.
Lukasehnko has made a plea to close ally Russian President Vladimir Putin for military help if need be.
Putin has told his Belarusian counterpart that he was prepared to help Lukashenko “in accordance with the collective military pact if necessary”.