(Source: CD/Vatican News)
Unrest is continuing in Belarus despite the departure of top opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya for neighbouring Lithuania.
Anti-government demonstrators protested for a third straight night on Tuesday, denouncing the results of last Sunday’s presidential election and calling for a free and transparent ballot.
Belarusian police detained as many as 6,000 protesters and the Belarusian Interior Ministry said that 51 protesters and 14 police officers were hurt during the turmoil overnight.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory with around 80% of the vote, triggering two nights of violent clashes between security forces and opposition supporters in which one protester was killed.
Belarusian health officials reported that over 200 people have been hospitalised with injuries following the protests, with some needing to undergo surgery.
The unrest has been fuelled by a deep sense of frustration at years of political repression and a declining economy.
Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya said on Tuesday she had fled to neighbouring Lithuania for the sake of her children and urged an end to the demonstrations.
Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who entered the race after her husband’s jailing in Belarus, apologised to her supporters in a video statement and said it was her own choice to leave the country.
“It was a very hard decision to make,” she said.
Reaction in Europe
On Tuesday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned what he called the “disproportionate” violence by Belarusian authorities against protesters following Sunday’s election and said the EU could take unspecified measures.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Wednesday that EU foreign ministers will meet on Friday to discuss targeted sanctions against Belarus.
Prayer and dialogue
In recent days the Archbishop of Minsk, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, has called on citizens to find a peaceful way out of the confrontation between the presidency and the opposition. Speaking to Vatican News, the archbishop also urged dialogue and prayers for peace.
“In different cities… and especially in Minsk, people are fighting against police and one man was killed yesterday; a lot of people from both sides were injured, some of them seriously”, Kondrusiewicz denounced.
The archbishop went on to say that he is encouraging prayer – and especially the recitation of the rosary – to implore for peace in the country.
“Today I am making an appeal to both sides to stop the violence and to organise a round table to solve all these problems that the country is experiencing at the moment”, Kondrusiewicz concluded.