The term of the ultimatum announced by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to the Belarusian authorities has expired. Its demands were not met. Yesterday, thousands of protesters were out on the streets of the cities, at least 100 thousand people gathered in Minsk. The police used special equipment against peaceful protesters – stun grenades and rubber bullets. October 26 began with protests of workers at the largest Belarusian enterprises, pensioners and students gathered for the march in the afternoon, chains of solidarity were built throughout the city in the evening.
Since August, after the presidential elections, the country remains in a state of political crisis. Many voters refused to recognize the election results, believing that President Lukashenko and his subordinates falsified the results in their favor.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, one of the candidates who ran in the elections, was then forced to leave the country, and now lives in Lithuania. She has become one of the symbols of the protest movement. The most massive street protests in the capital of Belarus are held on weekends, they gather over a hundred thousand people. Usually, Minsk returns to normal on weekdays, but this Monday is special.
In mid-October, Tikhanovskaya issued an ultimatum to President Lukashenko, demanding his resignation, holding new elections, releasing political prisoners, and investigating the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement agencies in suppressing demonstrations. The term of the ultimatum expired on October 25; its conditions were not met. Tikhanovskaya called for an indefinite nationwide strike, starting on Monday 26 October, as a measure of pressure on President Lukashenko.
The Belarusian economic system is featured by the dominance of the state sector - almost all large industrial and agricultural enterprises are controlled by local or central authorities. The labor movement is weak, all employees of state-owned companies must be members of pro-government trade union organizations. The share of private business is relatively small. Independent trade unions don’t have any significant influence on the strike movement.
The first day of the nationwide strike didn’t affect the work of large state-owned enterprises, although there were local demonstrations of workers in certain industries. At the same time, some private companies have suspended work in solidarity. In the afternoon, there were several spontaneous demonstrations of pensioners and students in the Belarusian capital. Transport and other urban infrastructure worked as usual.
At the same time, opposition leaders called on their supporters to massively take to the streets of their cities again on Monday evening to express their disagreement with Alexander Lukashenko's stay in power and demand his resignation.
In the evening, residents of Minsk throughout the city lined up along the roads in chains of solidarity. Arrests continued until late at night. In various places in Minsk, the security forces fired paintball guns at the chains of solidarity.
Lukashenko is one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world. He won his first elections in 1994, and since then has been the leader of Belarus, which has no restrictions on the number of presidential terms of the same citizen. Lukashenko has absolute powers, he personally appoints or coordinates the appointment of heads of all levels of government, judges, members of the government, and even heads of large state-owned companies.
For a long time, it seemed obvious that Lukashenko had the support of the majority of citizens. However, the 2020 elections showed that he is no longer supported by Belarusians and a rather powerful layer of voters has formed in society, which feeds the protest movement on the streets of Belarusian cities.
Let's see how tonight will end in Minsk. See you tomorrow!