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Belarus opposition march against results of president elections Belarus opposition march against results of president elections  (ANSA)

Belarus detains opposition leaders after rally against President

Authorities in Belarus have detained two leading opposition activists following the most massive rally so far against President Alexander Lukashenko.

By Stefan J. Bos

The opposition's Coordination Council said Monday that police detained its members Sergei Dylevsky and Olga Kovalkova in the capital, Minsk. City police confirmed they were arrested. 

The opposition leaders helped spark a wave of protests demanding the resignation of Lukashenko, who is viewed by critics as a dictator. 

As many as 200,000 people demonstrated Sunday against the president, although he had vowed to crush the opposition.

In previous protests already several people were killed, and hundreds were injured in clashes with police. Thousands of people have been detained. 

But undeterred by Lukashenko's threat of military intervention,  Belarussians made clear Sunday they wanted Lukashenko to step down. They do not believe he won the August 9 presidential election. 

SHOW OF FORCE

Officials still claim he received about 80 percent of the vote.        

And in a show of force, embattled President Lukashenko stepped out of a helicopter wearing black body armor and holding an assault rifle. He arrived Sunday at his presidential Independence Palace in Minsk, accompanied by heavily armed security forces. 

With protests continuing nearby, the head of state made clear he had no intention to resign. He thanked police officers for their cooperation. In turn,  law enforcement personnel applauded Lukashenko and shouted they would stand with the authoritarian leader "till the end."

After that, the president got back aboard the helicopter and took off from his residence. From above, he could see the massive protests. 

But for now, Lukashenko wants to extend his 26-year rule. 

The European Union and the United States have expressed concern about the situation. And, EU officials consider more sanctions against those responsible for a crackdown on demonstrators.

24 August 2020, 14:31