Tartu rally in support of Belarusian people passes off peacefully

Messages of support at Tuesday's rally in Tartu.
Messages of support at Tuesday's rally in Tartu. Source: Litman Huang/Estonian Friends of Belarus social media page.

A rally in support of the Belarusian people took place in central Tartu Tuesday evening, in response to Sunday's presidential election which returned Alexander Lukashenko for his sixth consecutive term in office in a process which many say was rigged.

The event was announced in advance via a social media page and passed off peacefully in Tartu, where it attracted Estonians, Belarusians and people of a variety of other nationalities.

"We are not indifferent to the events taking place in Belarus, some of us have relatives there," one attendee at Tuesday's rally told daily Postimees' Russian-language edition.

"We came out to support the Belarusians in their peaceful protest, where the word 'peaceful' is key," they went on.

Attendees at Tuesday's rally in Tartu. Source: Litman Huang/Estonian Friends of Belarus social media page.

The aftermath of the election has seen reports of widespread repression of dissent in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, with state security personnel reportedly using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against unarmed demonstrators.

ERR's Moscow correspondent Anton Aleksejev, in Minsk, says that many journalists have also disappeared in the past few days.

One exit poll conducted on Sunday among Belarusian citizens resident in Estonia put opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who stood in her husband's stead after he was arrested,  on over 66 percent of support, compared with less than 15 percent for the incumbent. "Refused to answer" actually polled slightly more than Lukashenko in the same survey.

The official results put Lukashenko on a little over 80 percent support compared with just under 10 percent for Tikhanovskaya.

Demonstrators against Sunday's election and the current regime, as well as their supporters, often fly the traditional Belarusian white-red-white flag, rather than the country's official flag, reintroduced by Lukashenko in 1995 and essentially the same design as the Soviet-era Belarusian SSR flag, minus the hammer and sickle motif.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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