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Belarus police detain opposition group campaign manager before election

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Police in Belarus have detained the campaign manager for the leading opposition candidate in today’s election.

Former English teacher Svetlana Tikhanouskaya poses the biggest political challenge President Alexander Lukashenko has faced in decades as the polls opened at 8am (6am UK time).

Ms Tikhanouskaya’s campaign manager Maria Moroz was detained on Saturday and is expected to be held until Monday, her spokeswoman said.

She was briefly detained on Thursday after visiting the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk but was re-arrested over the weekend.

It is not clear on what grounds she is being held.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko delivers his annual address to the nation and lawmakers in Minsk on August 4, 2020. (Photo by Nikolay PETROV / BELTA / AFP) (Photo by NIKOLAY PETROV/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images)
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Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is likely to be re-elected for a sixth time

Police arrested another member of Ms Tikhanouskaya’s team on Saturday, Maria Kolesnikova, but later claimed she had been mistaken for someone else.

Lukashenko, 65, who has ruled since 1994 and is often described as “Europe’s last dictator”, is almost certain to win a sixth consecutive term in today’s vote.

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But he faces a new wave of protests amid anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and his human rights record.

An ongoing crackdown on the opposition could also hurt Lukashenko’s attempts to mend his relationship with the West amid fraying ties with traditional ally Russia.

Protests in Belarus
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Opposition protests have swept Belarus in the weeks leading up to today’s vote

Political novice Ms Tikhanouskaya, 37, decided to enter the race after her husband, an anti-government blogger who intended to run, was jailed.

Her rallies have drawn some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

 

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