By Stefan J. Bos
Anti-government protesters gathered once again on Wednesday in Minsk's Independence Square, calling for long-time President Lukashenko's resignation. They also demand the release of detained protesters.
Even a well-known 73-year-old opposition protester Nina Baginskaya was struggling with police. She could be seen walking alone with a white-red-white flag. But police confiscated the item.
Minsk police later confirmed the detention of dozens of protestors.
Separately, two leading figures of Belarus's growing protest movement were given 10-day jail terms for organizing rallies against the authoritarian president. Those detained, Olga Kovalkova and Sergei Dylevsky, are both members of the opposition's National Co-ordination Council.
The opposition launched the initiative to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power. Another Council official, Maria Kolesnikova, was also among those summoned for questioning by police. She welcomed the support from the European Union and the United States for her cause. "Of course, We appreciate this support. And it is very important. But now for it is very important for us also to know that we are responsible for everything that is happening in Belarus,” she explained.
The US concerned
After talks with his Lithuanian counterpart, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun expressed concern about the turmoil. "For the United States' part, we condemn the violations of human rigfhts and brutality we have seen throughout Belarus. And we call on the government of Belarus to release all the political prisoners they are currently holding," he told reporters.
He also met Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main political rival of the Belarussian president. She fled to Lithuania amid reported threats against her and her children.
Lukashenko has denied threatening her. But he made clear he wants to end weeks of protests challenging the August 9 presidential election.
While the European Union still considers who in Belarus should be sanctioned, EU member Lithuania already has its list of those it links to vote-rigging and violence against peaceful protesters. They include Belarusian President Lukashenko, who has ruled his nation for 26 years.