Second support rally for Belarus held in Vabaduse väljak

Protest at Freedom Sqaure.
Protest at Freedom Sqaure. Source: ERR

Protesters gathered for the second time in the past week to support protests in Belarus, sparked by the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko just over a week ago in polls widely condemned as rigged.

Approximately 100 people gathered at Vabaduse Väljak on Sunday after an appeal by Belarusians living in Estonia. Many people were carrying placards and red and white flags, which is the pre-Lukashenko Belarusian flag.

The attendees were on the younger side, largely people who have moved to or been born in Estonia, but whose relatives and acquaintances are still in Belarus, ETV current news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

One protestor named Tatsiana told AK: "Belarusians are out together in their homeland. Volunteers are doing a lot, we are helping ourselves. But the important thing is that Lukashenko will no longer decide on the military, the police and the money in Belarus."

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years and this year's elections were not judged to be free or fair. The country has needed 20 years for its awakening, protestors said.

Protestor Dmitri Olesjuk recalled his time in Belarus when he was studying at university and said that, as a non-citizen of Belarus, he was dragooned into voting by security forces.

Olesjuk told AK: "One morning, two policemen came to my place. And they told me that I need to go and vote. During that time, I had an alien's passport and I told them I am not a citizen of Belarus, I don't have the right to vote. They told me that they don't care and if I don't go with them to vote, they would kick me out of the dormitory."

He said the European Union has been too lenient with the current situation in Belarus.

"It is very weak. They want to establish sanctions, but they don't have an impact. These sanctions have been active for 20 years, but there is no effect," Olesjuk said.

Another protestor Denis Slavintski told AK the older generation of Belarusians is split and there are many supporters of the current government.

"My relatives who live in Belarus still support the Lukashenko regime because they are just too afraid to protest. But my uncle, who lives there, still stands for freedom and Europe," said Slavintski.

Tatsiana, who has lived in Estonia for five years, summed up the main wishes of the protestors: "We don't want an army for our country from any other country. We don't want any military action at all. We just want to elect a new president," she said.

The first protest in Tallinn took place on August 13, following a protest in Tartu two days before.

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

Huge protests have erupted in Belarus after the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Belarus announced Lukashenko had won the presidential election with 80 percent of the vote. Almost all opposition candidates were banned from running in the elections and some were jailed.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya ran as an opposition candidate, with two other women, after her husband was banned from running as a candidate and put in prison. Tikhanovskaya has now become the face of the opposition. She fled to Lithuania last week after threats were made against her family.

Protests in Belarus turned violent after the election with security forces beating protestors and rumors of torture taking place in prison. Two protesters have died. On Sunday, the biggest protest in Belarus' recent history took place peacefully which attracted hundreds of thousands of people.

Estonia has called for new elections and raised the issue at the United Nations Security Council. President Kersti Kaljulaid has called the current situation in Belarus "deeply disturbing".  Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) called the crackdown on protestors "unacceptable".


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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