On March 25, that is celebrated at Freedom Day across Belarus, police cracked down on protesters in Minsk who were demanding the ouster of President Alexander Lukashenko who has held power in the country for 26 years.
March 25 is the anniversary of the day Belarus People’s Republic declared independence in 1918, and anti-Lukashenko protesters used the day to revive protests that began last year on August 9, shortly after it became clear that Lukashenko, won a record sixth term in office in an election dubbed a sham by pro-democracy groups and Opposition leaders.
Riot Police was deployed in large numbers in the capital city of Minsk, and they were seen whisking away protesters and media persons covering the protests. Police also used water cannons to dispel protesters despite the freezing cold. Arrests were reported from across the country as demonstrations took place in many other cities and towns.
Many shocking pictures and videos were shared by Belarusians on social media showing the crackdown.
Lukashenko’s political opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced into exile, expressed support from Vilnius, Lithuania.
Support for the people of Belarus poured in from across Europe and the world, incuding the United States:
Concerns about Belarus were raised at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council as well. Speaking on behalf of the EU, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Rui Macieira, said “(At the) last (Human Rights Council) session, we requested an urgent debate on Belarus and presented a resolution of the same title, because we were deeply concerned about serious human rights violations that occurred in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential election and in its aftermath.”
He added, “Since then, we have witnessed a continued massive crackdown on human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of the media in Belarus.”
Rejecting the resolution – which passed with 20 votes for, 7 against and 20 abstentions – Belarus’s Ambassador, Yury Ambrazevic, said that the country regarded it “as yet another attempt to interfere in the domestic affairs of our State and we reject it. Our Government is not in agreement with subjective assessment and unfounded accusations that are contained in the resolution.”
*Feature image: File picture by Homoatrox via Wikimedia Commons.