Big protests in Belarus claim a new presidential election

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An enormous crowd of protesters demanded a new presidential election in Belarus. Lukashenko’s victory is contested. It’s the biggest protest in the country in the history. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, gave a speech to government supporters. He claimed Belarus was being threatened by foreign interference. “There is a build-up of military power on the western borders of the country. Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine are ordering us to hold new elections. If we listen to them, we will perish,” he said. The carnival atmosphere of the last three days continued, as people cheered, passing cars beeped their horns, and chants of “Resign!” rang out.

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Thousands of people have been detained during protests against the government over the last week, after opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled the country to Lithuania. Belarus’ Ministry of Defense announced Sunday that it would carry out combat training exercises between August 17 and 20. Over the weekend, the Belarusian Ambassador to Slovakia also expressed solidarity with opposition demonstrators, saying he is shocked by reports that citizens have been beaten and tortured. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, told Lukashenko in a phone call on Sunday that Moscow stood ready to provide help in accordance with a collective military pact if necessary. The Kremlin said in a statement that external pressure was being applied to Belarus but it did not say by whom.