Belarusian protesters keep up pressure for President’s resignation

Several hundred women marched across the capital of Belarus in heavy rain Saturday to demand the resignation of the country’s authoritarian president, continuing more than 2 1/2 months of protests against his challenged reelection to a sixth term.

The demonstrations were triggered by official results giving President Alexander Lukashenko 80% of the vote in an Aug. 9 election that the opposition insists was rigged. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, has accused the United States and its allies of fomenting unrest in the ex-Soviet country.

The protesters who marched on Oct 19 in Minsk carried umbrellas in the white and red colors of the opposition flag, chanted for Lukashenka to Go away! as a demand for the president’s resignation.

Daily protests in Belarus have continued despite arrests and pressure, peaking on weekends with crowds of 100,000 and more. Another big protest is set on Oct 25.

Pro- Lukashenko pensioners also rallied in the city, many of them men in military and security forces uniforms, with banners with slogans such as “For peace, prosperity, and traditional values.”

The United States and the European Union have dismissed the August election as neither free nor fair and introduced sanctions against top Belarusian officials accused of vote manipulation and a crackdown on peaceful protesters.

The EU has warned it is ready to sanction Lukashenko himself if he fails to enter talks with the opposition. The Belarusian leader has ignored demands to negotiate and relied instead on political and economic support from Russia, his main ally and sponsor.