Third night restless in Minsk: Minister Blok ‘worried’

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Minister Blok of Foreign Affairs writes this in a letter to the Lower House. This weekend, incumbent President Aleksandr Lukashenko received no less than 80 percent of the vote. His only serious rival, the popular Svetlana Tichanovskaya, is said to have won only 9.9 percent of the vote.

Incredible result

That result is to say the least unbelievable. Already on the day of the elections, there were indications that fraud had taken place. The turnout was suspiciously high, while many voters were unable to vote. There were also demonstrably tampering with ballots that were deliberately invalidated if someone other than Lukashenko was filled in.

The controversial election results have been causing unrest in Minsk and other Belarusian cities for three evenings. Protesters take to the streets chanting ‘go away’, aimed at Lukashenko. Last night also saw violent clashes between protesters and the police.

Rubber bullets and grenades

For example, the police would have used rubber bullets and grenades against the protesters. Dozens of protesters have been arrested, according to Reuters news agency. An eyewitness saw security forces smashing car windows and dragging and attacking occupants of cars. Another saw news photographers attacked and their cameras damaged.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja, who has fled to neighboring Lithuania for the safety of herself and her children, had called on her compatriots not to risk their lives in confrontations with the police.

Minister Blok is also concerned about the harsh police action. “Violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable and must stop,” says Blok.

Embassy staff

He writes that the election results “are considered unfair by many in Belarus and beyond.” According to the minister, employees of the Dutch embassy in Minsk have tried to observe the elections. They encountered ‘various irregularities’ but, according to Blok, there is not enough evidence to not recognize the result.

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The Netherlands is therefore not taking any concrete steps against Belarus. Blok does hope that the EU can take joint action against the country. Sanctions against ‘persons responsible for the violence of the past days’ are therefore not ruled out, according to Blok.

‘A little more spice’

MPs react irritated to the letter from Minister Blok. For example, D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma writes that he expects ‘a little more spice’ from the minister.

Dictator Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with a heavy hand for 26 years. He has threatened several times since Sunday to use the army against the protesters, who want him to leave the field. At least 5,000 people have been arrested and at least one is known to have been killed.

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