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Breaking Belarus’ leader digs in amid continuing protests

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MINSK, Belarus -- Prosecutors in Belarus opened a criminal investigation Thursday against opposition activists who set up a council to negotiate a democratic transition of power amid massive protests against official election results that extended the 26-year rule of the country’s authoritarian leader.Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has dismissed the protesters demanding his resignation as…
Breaking Belarus’ leader digs in amid continuing protests

Breaking

MINSK, Belarus — Prosecutors in Belarus opened a felony investigation Thursday against opposition activists who characteristic up a council to barter a democratic transition of vitality amid big protests against respectable election outcomes that prolonged the 26-300 and sixty five days rule of the country’s authoritarian chief.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has brushed aside the protesters stressful his resignation as Western puppets, had threatened opposition leaders with felony charges. Following up on his warning, prosecutors opened an inquiry against the modern council’s founders on charges of undermining national safety.

The Belarusian Prosecutor Overall’s place of job said the introduction of the Coordination Council that met for the first time Wednesday violated the constitution.

“The introduction and the activities of the Coordination Council are aimed at seizing vitality and inflicting damage to the national safety,” Prosecutor Overall Alexander Konyuk said.

The council participants like rejected the accusations and demand their actions fully follow Belarusian regulation. The United States on Thursday urged the authorities to put off in a dialogue with the opposition council and described the Aug. 9 presidential election that handed Lukashenko a sixth term as neither free nor swish.

The post-election protests persisted in the capital of Minsk and other cities for the 12th straight day. About 1,000 protesters rallied on Minsk’ central Independence Square, chanting “Fling away!” to quiz that the country’s chief since 1994 fling away place of job. .

“The Belarusians like changed,” Olga Matusevich, a 29-300 and sixty five days-feeble entrepreneur, said. “The assert will no longer pause unless Lukashenko steps down.”

Throughout the first four days of protests, police detained almost 7,000 other folks and injured a total lot with rubber bullets, stun grenades and golf equipment. A minimal of three protesters died.

The crackdown fueled big outrage and swelled protesters’ ranks, forcing authorities to alternate tactics and pause breaking up crowds that grew to an unheard of 200,000 on Sunday.

“I used to be born and grew up below Lukashenko and I heard nothing nonetheless threats,” said 26-300 and sixty five days-feeble biologist Maria Fando. “But it’s impossible to dread the majority, they usually won’t present the option to penal complex all people.”

After standing attend for days, police again beefed up their presence on the streets of Minsk on Wednesday, blocking off discover admission to to a pair government constructions and furthermore deploying outside most main factories the put workers were on strike since Monday while backing the anti-Lukashenko protests.

“They’re again searching to dread us,” Maxim Shukevich, 32, who works at the Minsk Tractor Plant, said. “The authorities are striking attend. Our manufacturing facility is being flooded with regulation enforcement brokers.”

The commercial circulation that has engulfed most main factories at some level of the country solid a inspiring topic to Lukashenko, who had relied on blue-collar workers as his core enhance irascible.

In a present to pause the strike from spreading, the Belarusian chief on Wednesday said that the contributors would face dismissal and ordered regulation enforcement agencies to present protection to manufacturing facility managers from opposition pressure.

A full bunch of dispute tv workers like furthermore long gone on strike, shaking the government’s succor watch over of the media.

The Belarusian chief warned participants of the Coordination Council that they’d perchance face felony accountability for his or her strive to manufacture “parallel vitality constructions.”

The council has called for a brand modern presidential election organized by newly fashioned election commissions, as well to for an investigation into the assert crackdown and compensation for victims of police violence.

The team’s dreams drew increasing enhance from governments in Europe and beyond this week. U.S. Secretary of Notify Mike Pompeo said Thursday that Washington remains “deeply concerned by serious flaws” in the the Aug. 9 election and strongly condemns the violence against protesters.

Pompeo said the vote in Belarus didn’t meet the requirements with out cost and swish elections. He urged officers there to “actively put off Belarusian society,” at the side of during the newly established opposition council, “in a technique that reflects what the Belarusian other folks are stressful.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said the European Union used to be ready to play a mediating role in Belarus if Belarusian protesters need that. EU leaders on Wednesday said they had been getting ready sanctions against Belarusian officers liable for alleged election fraud and for police brutality against assert contributors.

Macron, who discussed the topic in Belarus with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, said Putin used to be “favorable” to the muse of mediation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the stop trans-Atlantic safety and rights team.

“We’re ready to lift all our support and our mediation,” the French president told reporters. “We insisted on the desire to love a democratic, inclusive transition in Belarus that passes through dialogue.”

The Belarusian opposition physique contains high associates of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who used to be Lukashenko’s leading challenger in the Aug. 9 election, as well to rights activists and representatives of striking workers. It furthermore involves Belarus’ most famed author, Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature.

Basically the most moving dilapidated senior respectable on the council, Pavel Latushko, who headed a number one national theater and used to be fired earlier this week for siding with protesters, said he would no longer fling away the country despite being threatened with arrest. The facade of his rental in Minsk used to be splashed with crimson paint in a single day.

One other opposition council member, Sergei Dylevsky, the chief of striking workers at the Minsk Tractor Plant, furthermore brushed aside the respectable accusations as “total nonsense.”

“There could be a spirited warfare between the other folks and the government, and we easiest symbolize a physique that could perchance perchance per chance strive to mediate it,” Dylevsky said. “We don’t appear to be aiming to overthrow the government and win vitality, our purpose is restful dialogue.”

Prosecutors summoned Tsikhanouskaya’s attorney, Maxim Znak, who furthermore sits on the council, to reach for interrogation Friday as piece of the probe.

Tsikhanouskaya, 37, a dilapidated English teacher who went to neighboring Lithuania after the election in a circulation that her campaign aides said used to be made below pressure, met Thursday with Lithuanian High Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who promised to abet “attain free and swish elections in Belarus.”

Facing Western criticism, Lukashenko, 65, has changed into to Russia for abet, announcing that Putin promised him safety support if Belarus wants it. The two nations like an agreement that contemplates shut political, economic and defense power ties.

Asked about the EU’s choices, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed Moscow’s warning against international meddling.

“We continue to lift our stance that we’ve in ideas any international have an effect on on the developments in Belarus unacceptable,” he told reporters.

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Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Matthew Lee in Washington, Angela Charlton in Paris and Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania contributed to this picture.

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Follow AP’s protection of the political turmoil in Belarus at https://www.apnews.com/Belarus

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