After a night of brutal violence between police and protesters that reportedly left one person dead, dozens wounded, and thousands detained, Belarus’ Central Election Commission has announced the sixth reelection of 65-year-old President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, based on preliminary results.
According to the Central Election Commission’s preliminary results, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was reelected with 80.23 percent of the vote – his nearly constant percentage over the 26 years that he has been in power.
Chief opposition contender Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya received 9.9 percent of the vote – a result with which the 37-year-old candidate’s campaign does not agree. Based on the Central Election Commission's calculations, the remaining three challengers to President Lukashenka each received less than 2 percent of the vote.
At an August 10 briefing, Tsikhanouskaya, flanked by ally Maryya Kalesnikava and campaign manager Maryya Moroz, condemned the government for using violence "to hold onto its position."
"The authorities will not listen to us," she said. "But I should repeat that we are for peaceful changes. And the authorities should now think about how to hand over this power peacefully because, at the given moment, their only method is violence against people."
Tsikhanouskaya ally Valer Tsapkala, a former Belarusian ambassador to the U.S., commented to Current Time that “it’s completely obvious” that the preliminary results that gave Lukashenka a landslide win “do not correspond with reality.”
“In Belarus, we’ve gotten used to 10 or maybe 20 percent” of the vote being falsified, Tsapkala said, but the difference between Lukashenka and Tsikhanouskaya’s results suggests a “miraculous falsification.”
If President Lukashenka had truly won over 80 percent of the vote, he added, enormous crowds of voters would come out into the streets to celebrate his sixth term in office.
“We don’t see this. We see only the security structures, only the OMON [riot police], come out – not even to celebrate, but to defend Lukashenka against his people,” he said in reference to protests against Lukashenka’s official win.
At least one person, a young man, was believed to have been killed in violent clashes between police and protesters during the night of August 9 – August 10, 2020 in Belarus following the conclusion of the country’s presidential election.
The pro-opposition Telegram channel Maya Kraina Belarus (My Country Is Belarus) posted that the man had received severe brain injuries from a confrontation with “special equipment” deployed by the police on the city’s Avenue of Victors. The non-governmental human-rights center Vyasna (Spring) alleged that the death occurred after a police van plowed into a crowd of protesters.
But, in reality, the man photographed, Yauhen Zaichkin, was very much alive. In an August 10 interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarusian Service, he stated that riot police had badly beaten and wounded him. He lost consciousness in the police van.
Zaichkin believes he was photographed after he was taken out of the police van and transferred to an ambulance.
The Interior Ministry had denied that any deaths occurred.
Addressing the violence between police and protesters, President Lukashenka commented that “we wanted to give people a holiday” on August 9, but “[s]omeone wanted to ruin this holiday.”
“They specially, deliberately hit these guys,” he said, speaking of protesters and police. “They (the police) responded. What’s to sob and cry about now?”
More than 50 civilians and 39 police officers were injured during the clashes, according to the ministry. It stated only that “some” of the officers had been hospitalized, but Vyasna reports dozens of individuals hospitalized in Minsk, including in two branches of a military hospital.
The Interior Ministry has confirmed use of water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and “other means” for dispersing demonstrators.
Overall, more than 3,000 people were detained in Belarus during the confrontations; 1,000 in Minsk alone, it stated on August 10.
The Investigative Committee, which oversees pre-trial investigations in Belarus, has filed criminal charges against an undefined number of people for mass public disorders and the use of violence against police. Those charged with participating in the disorders face a potential eight to 15 years in prison.
Overall, more than 3,000 people were detained in Belarus during the confrontations; 1,000 in Minsk alone, according to the Interior Ministry.
The rights organization Vyasna earlier estimated that most of those
detained on August 9 – a number it put at 213 -- were election observers, although police also detained some journalists. Three detained employees of the Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) were later released.
Public transportation is again functioning normally today in Minsk, Current Time correspondent Roman Vasyukovich reported.
The Internet outage that plagued much of Belarus on August 9, the final day of voting in the election, however, appears to be continuing. Individuals in Belarus interviewed by Current Time can only be reached by telephone.
Commenting broadly, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said that “the police are controlling the situation,” the state-run news agency BelTA reported.
-Current Time English earlier reported that a man was believed to have been killed during the August 9-10 protests in Minsk. This article was updated on August 10 to include information about the RFE/RL interview with that man, Yauhen (Yevgeny) Zaichkin.