Putin to Belarus Ruler: Oh, and Happy Birthday

Lukashenko chats with Putin while 100K demonstrate
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 30, 2020 12:40 PM CDT
Belarus Ruler Marks Birthday With Putin Chat During Protest
Police block the way for Belarusian opposition supporters rally in Minsk on Sunday.   (AP Photo)

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered Sunday in the capital of Belarus, beginning the fourth week of daily protests demanding the resignation of the country's authoritarian president on his birthday. The protest at the "hero city" monument honoring Minsk's suffering and resilience in World War II drew at least 100,000 people, according to a messaging app used by the opposition. Wide protests began after the Aug. 9 election that officials say gave President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide 80% win over Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former teacher and the wife of a popular jailed blogger. Opponents contend the election was rigged. Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to Lithuania because of concerns about her security, gave a withering acknowledgement Sunday of the birthday, the AP reports.

"I wish him to overcome his fears, look truth in the eye, listen to the voice of the people, and go away," she said. Lukashenko, in office since 1994, has been defiant but beleaguered, unable to put down largest, most sustained wave of protests yet in this Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people. He has refused to rerun the election, which both the European Union and the United States have said was not free or fair, and refused offers to help mediate the situation from Baltic nations. Lukashenko has said he has reached an agreement with Vladimir Putin for security aid if he asks for it. The two talked by phone on Sunday, but a Kremlin statement gave few details of the conversation, other than noting that Putin congratulated the Belarusian president on his 66th birthday.

(Read more Belarus stories.)

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