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‘Happy birthday, you rat’: Protesters target Lukashenko on embattled Belarus leader’s 66th birthday

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Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in Minsk in opposition to Alexander Lukashenko, with many directing chants of “happy birthday, you rat” towards the embattled Belarusian president.

Mr Lukashenko, who refuses to stand down over election rigging claims, spent his 66th birthday on Sunday at his residence in the capital, where he was again pictured carrying an automatic rifle.

He received a congratulatory phone call from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who extended him an invitation to visit Moscow – a sign of the Kremlin’s support for the Belarusian leader amid the threat of Western sanctions.

'There were blood smears on the walls': Belarus protesters traumatised by brutal treatment

‘There were blood smears on the walls’: Belarus protesters traumatised by brutal treatment

EYEWITNESS

Belarusian servicemen stand behind a barbed wire fence during an opposition supporters rally protesting against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 30, 2020. - Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched through Minsk on August 30, calling for an end to strongman Alexander Lukashenko's rule amid a heavy security presence and despite dozens of arrests. Belarus protests have entered a third week since the disputed presidential election on August 9 in which Lukashenko
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Belarusian servicemen stand behind a barbed wire fence

Meanwhile, protesters in Minsk carried balloons, flowers and the red-white-red flag which the country bore briefly during the 1990s and which has become a symbol of the anti-government protests.

Some carried cockroach puppets while others called the president a “rat” – a slur Mr Lukashenko has previously used to describe opponents.

Opposition supporters rally to protest against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 30, 2020. - Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched through Minsk on August 30, calling for an end to strongman Alexander Lukashenko's rule amid a heavy security presence and despite dozens of arrests. Belarus protests have entered a third week since the disputed presidential election on August 9 in which Lukashenko claimed victory. (Photo by - / TUT.BY / AFP) (Photo by -/TUT.BY/A
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Tens of thousands of protesters were seen on the streets
Hundreds of thousands flock to the streets in Minsk to protest Alexander Lukashenko's continued presidency on the 30th August 2020, for a forth week. Here, crowds fill a multi story car park across the road from the palace of independence where Lukashenko has working residency.
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Protesters flocked to the streets in Minsk

The protesters converged on Mr Lukashenko’s residence in the afternoon, protected by security forces carrying riot shields – while armoured military vehicles were seen earlier driving towards the city centre.

Throughout the day, police, including some in plain clothes, bundled protesters into vans.

More from Belarus

Lukashenko holds a gun 24082020
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Alexander Lukashenko was also seen carrying a rifle last week
Riot Police stand guard at the Palace of Independence, Lukashenko working residency as hundreds of thousands march towards them.
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Riot police guarded Lukashenko’s residence

The country’s interior ministry claimed at least 140 people were detained. Testimonies from those previously held reported severe beatings at the hands of the security services.

One of President Lukashenko’s aides, Nikolai Latyshenok, ruled out the possibility of holding talks with the opposition, and gave a personal opinion that only 20-30% of Belarusian society was opposed to the president.

Belarus special police troops detain a protester as opposition supporters rally to protest against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 30, 2020. - Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched through Minsk on August 30, calling for an end to strongman Alexander Lukashenko's rule amid a heavy security presence and despite dozens of arrests. Belarus protests have entered a third week since the disputed presidential election on August 9 in which Lukashenko claimed victo
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Security forces detained 140 protesters, the government said
MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 30: People take part in an anti-governmental rally in the rain on August 30, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus. There have been near daily demonstrations after the disputed August 9th presidential election, in which Alexander Lukashenko claimed 80 percent of the vote. He shows no signs of giving into to protester demands to resign or hold a new election. (Photo by Misha Friedman/Getty Images)
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Demonstrations have continued since the election two weeks ago

The Kremlin’s support for Mr Lukashenko had been questioned, despite the importance of Belarus for the country’s European defence strategy.

Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that the Kremlin had established a “reserve police force” at Mr Lukashenko’s request, adding it would be deployed if necessary.

 

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