The calm before the storm – the opposition in Belarus is preparing to mount the greatest challenge yet to President Lukashenko.
Despite earlier being driven out of Minsk’s main square by security forces, a rally today is expected to attract thousands in protest at what they regard as Sunday’s flawed presidential result.
Opposition leader, Alexander Milinkevich, said: “Just one month ago I would not have thought that we could protest for several days in the city’s main square.This has been a small piece of freedom and we will meet again in October Square.”
The European Union has already decided to impose sanctions over what it sees as electoral violations and Lukashenko’s crackdown on opposition protest.
But Russia is continuing its support of its long time ally.Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the OSCE, the organisation which monitored the election.
He said: “Long before the elections in Belarus, the Organistion for Security and Cooperation in Europe had announced that the elections would not be legitimate and in a rather biased way, commented on their course and the results, thus playing an inflammatory role.”
After police broke up yesterday’s rally, several hundred people were arrested. Crowds of relatives gathered outside prisons where the detained were being held.
President Lukashenko enjoys widespread support outside the capital and denies that his landslide victory was rigged.