It may not be the heavy-handed crackdown many had feared. But authorities in Belarus do appear to be losing patience as protesters continue their vigil to call for a re-run of what they say was a rigged election.
The opposition claims over 100 people have been arrested, including leading activists. It comes as security forces maintain a low-key presence – waiting to see if the rally in October Square in the capital will gain momentum. That is certainly the hope of Alexander Milinkevich – the main opposition leader who, like hundreds of protesters, braved sub-zero temperatures to camp out overnight. “We want to wait until others can come here,” said one woman. “We would like to sleep for at least a couple of hours as it is very difficult to spend 12 hours on foot. “We plan to come back again if we can,” she added. While many remain determined, the number of demonstrators is down on the thousands who poured into central Minsk on Sunday as the polls closed. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko may simply be hoping the protest will peter out. Re-elected with a landslide 82 per cent in a ballot condemned by independent observers, he says his victory marks the failure of an opposition bid to mount a pro-Western coup. The man dubbed Europe’s last dictator by Washington has threatened to “wring the necks” of anyone who tries to seize power through a popular uprising.