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Belarus: Workers go on strike as Lukashenko ignores call to resign

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People with old Belarusian national flags march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020
People with old Belarusian national flags march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020   -   Copyright  AP
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Students, factory workers and business owners went on strike in Belarus on Monday after President Alexander Lukashenko ignored a midnight deadline to resign.

Photos appeared to show thousands of protesters in the capital Minsk protesting the authoritarian leader on Monday.

Hundreds of students gathered outside universities clapping and chanting slogans while local media reported groups of strikers at many major state-controlled enterprises.

Protests continued throughout the day in the country with authorities detaining protesters and threatening workers planning to strike, according to Alexander Yaroshuk, leader of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Unions, speaking to AP.

Retirees also marched in Minsk on Monday, with droves gathered in the streets of the capital city.

Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tikhanouskaya had given Lukashenko until Sunday to quit power, halt violence against protesters and release political prisoners, warning he would otherwise face a general strike from Monday.

Early Tuesday morning, opposition adviser Franak Viačorka posted photos of workers who were continuing to strike.

Government spokeswoman Alexandra Isaeva had said on Monday morning all companies were "operating in routine mode".

The protest movement in Belarus has kept up a series of large-scale demonstrations since a contested August 9 presidential election, with tens of thousands taking to the streets every Sunday.

The protests continue despite a violent crackdown by security forces.

The UN human rights investigator for Belarus said on Monday that the Belarusian government should "stop repressing its own people," according to AP.

Anais Marin said at least 20,000 were detained in August and September amid the crackdown.

Jaroslav Romanchuk, a director of the Scientific Research Mises Centre think tank and a former candidate in the 2010 presidential election, said that the situation in the country is becoming increasingly desperate.

"People are running out of savings, social security is also falling apart and there are no jobs around," he said.

"But if the European Union expresses continued solidarity, probably joined by Russia, that would be the end of the Lukashenko regime."

Watch the full interview in the video player above.

Additional sources • AP