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People attend a rally in support of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko near the Government House in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 16, 2020. - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Pro- and Anti-Lukashenko Rallies Held in Minsk

Belarus has held a highly contested presidential election. Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko declared victory with over 80 percent of the vote, paving the way for his sixth term since he assumed office in 1994. The results of the vote sparked mass protests and strikes across the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko have discussed the situation in Belarus taking into account the pressure exerted on the republic from outside, the Belta news agency reported on Sunday, citing Putin and Lukashenko's telephone conversation.

President Putin reaffirmed his committment to aid Belarus in resolving its problems via the Collective Security Treaty. The two politicians held a similar phone conversation the previous day.

The phone talk comes as two rallies are taking place on Sunday in Minsk: one in support of the government and the other opposing it.

Earlier in the day, former Belarusian presidential contender Valery Tsepkalo, who fled the country in July, arrived in Ukraine with plans to move to Warsaw with his family, where he will meet with high-ranking officials from Washington, his campaign office revealed.

Belarus has been engulfed in protests since the results of the presidential election in the country were announced. Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko claims to have won over 80 percent of the vote amid widespread accusations of vote-rigging. Over 6,500 people have been arrested, and hundreds injured, including more than 120 law enforcement officers in the ensuing demonstrations. One person has died in the protests so far.

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21:12 GMT 16.08.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - French President Emmanuel Macron called on the European Union on Sunday to actively take the side of Belarusians protesting against the re-election of their long-time president.

"The EU must continue to mobilize at the side of hundreds of thousands of Belarusians who have been protesting peacefully so that their rights, freedom and sovereignty are respected," he tweeted.

The EU foreign ministers agreed this week to draft a list of Belarusian officials they hold responsible for suspected vote rigging and police violence against demonstrators. They will be slapped with targeted sanctions.

20:17 GMT 16.08.2020

MINSK (Sputnik) - The Belarusian opposition plans to take court action over the violent crackdown on protesters, Maria Kolesnikova, a senior opposition figure, said Sunday.

Kolesnikova, an ally of self-exiled former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and campaign chief of her rival, opposition politician Viktor Babaryko, made the announcement in a video posted online.

"We now demand an end to violence... None of those responsible for the violence has been punished, no cases have been opened, people have not been freed from custody. That's not how it should be, that's not right," she said.

"Tomorrow, we will file requests that criminal probes be launched into people's deaths, into every single incident of torture and illegal actions of the police," Kolesnikova added.

19:41 GMT 16.08.2020

MINSK (Sputnik) - No detentions were made at Sunday's demonstration in support of the Belarusian opposition in Minsk, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman told Sputnik.

"According to preliminary information, no detentions were made in Minsk. The event went off without any disturbances," Olga Chemodanova said.

16:46 GMT 16.08.2020
16:23 GMT 16.08.2020

KIEV (Sputnik) - The Ukrainian president's office criticized the Belarusian leader on Sunday after Alexander Lukashenko said the neighbouring country was forcing Belarus to call another presidential election.

"Today it was practically officially announced in Minsk that the Ukrainian leadership allegedly 'orders' new elections in Belarus. This is not just a patently false claim. This is a deliberate mounting tension, conscious provocative behavior," the Ukrainian president's office said.

The presidency argued that Lukashenko's claims cannot "drown out the voice of thousands of protests of own citizens. If there is no trust – and the world sees that there is no credibility at all – then this gap cannot be filled with unfair accusations."

Earlier in the day, Lukashenko said in an address to the nation at a rally in Minsk that Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania were trying to coerce his country into holding a new election, after he was re-elected for a sixth term last week.

15:31 GMT 16.08.2020

MINSK (Sputnik) - Belarusian Interior Minister Yuri Karaev suggested on Sunday that a protester who died in Minsk early this week was shot at with a non-lethal weapon.

Alexander Taraikovsky died on Monday during a rally held in protest against the official outcome of last Sunday's presidential election. The Interior Ministry said he had been killed by an explosive device that went off in his hand as he was about to throw it at the police. Footage of Taraikovsky's death that emerged over the weekend do not show that the protester had an explosive decide in his hand.

"Maybe he was shot at with a non-lethal weapon. I do not know yet... It might have been a rubber bullet, it was not a firearm, it was not a bullet with a steel core," Karaev said in a video posted online.

The minister denied claims that the police had used lethal weapons in the crackdown on protests.

"We did not use firearms, only non-lethal weapons," he said.

This image taken from the Associated Press Television footage filmed on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, shows a protester recognised as Alexander Taraikovsky with a wound during a rally after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 9. - Sputnik International
Belarusian Protests: Video Allegedly Showing Protester’s Death in Clashes Emerges
15:13 GMT 16.08.2020
15:06 GMT 16.08.2020
14:28 GMT 16.08.2020
14:12 GMT 16.08.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday rejected the idea of holding a new presidential election in the country, adding that Belarus will die as a country if it agrees.

"Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and, unfortunately, our native Ukraine and its leadership are calling upon us to hold new elections. If only we follow their lead, we will go into a tailspin and never stabilize our airship. We will die as a state, as a people, as a nation," Lukashenko said at a pro-government rally in central Minsk.

The leader also said that the presidential election took place, and the result of the vote, according to which, he gained over 80 percent, could not be falsified.

Lukashenko went on saying that presidential re-election would weaken the country, as only "hooligans" would take part in it.

In addition, the president advised workers not to quit their jobs, adding that otherwise they would not be able to get their jobs back.

The leader also said that it was not him or the authorities that triggered violence during protests across the country but those opposing them.

"They say [the authorities] exercised ... brutality on the streets. So who did trigger this brutality? Was it you [my supporters]? Did I trigger it, or the authorities? We did not need it. It was necessary to stop them [the protesters], as if they had not been stopped, you would not be here ... as they would have been dividing and tearing apart the country," Lukashenko added.

According to the president, the opposition will not allow the country's population to live in peace, as it is controlled by foreigners. At the same time, Lukashenko called on those opposing the authorities to respect the opinion of majority.

The Belarusian leader also warned the opposition against threatening military and public servants.

"Soldiers, civil servants, workers, peasants, doctors, teachers, our elite, they are able to protect themselves and their families," Lukashenko said, urging to leave teachers and doctors alone, as they need to prepare for a new school year and treat COVID-19 patients.

The president also warned activists against attacking journalists of the state media and their families. If something happens to them, the offenders will "pay the ultimate price," Lukashenko said.

In addition, Lukashenko said that citizens of Belarus are able to protect themselves, urging the opposition not to push people to violent confrontation.

13:12 GMT 16.08.2020

"At the beginning of the event, the number of people stood at 65,000", Belarusian Interior Ministry's spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said.

13:07 GMT 16.08.2020
12:50 GMT 16.08.2020
12:46 GMT 16.08.2020
12:12 GMT 16.08.2020
11:05 GMT 16.08.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus President Alexandel Lukashenko discussed by the phone the current situation in Belarus taking into account external pressure on Minsk in the light of mass protests, the Kremlin press service said.

"The two leaders continued the discussion of the situation in Belarus after the presidential election, including taking into account the pressure exerted on the republic from abroad", the statement said.

On Saturday, Putin and Lukashenko also discussed the current developments in Belarus.

11:04 GMT 16.08.2020

"Thank you, you have never let me down", Lukashenko said addressing his supporters.

10:51 GMT 16.08.2020

MINSK (Sputnik) - Belarus Interior Minister Yuri Karayev said that the authorities would investigate all cases of police violence and abuse of protesters after the normalisation of the situation in the country.

"This is very bad, I am against it. It should not be that way. We will probe all cases. Not now, but when everything calms down", Karayev said as quoted by Belarus state-run Belta news agency.

According to the minister, people are being inspired to take to the streets and engage in clashes for money coming from abroad. Men receive about $12, while women receive $24 for taking part in the protests.


10:47 GMT 16.08.2020

"My thoughts also go to the dear Republic of Belarus. I am following attentively the post-electoral situation in that country and call for dialogue, the rejection of violence, respect for justice and rights", Pope Francis said addressing believers and pilgrims.

10:45 GMT 16.08.2020
10:11 GMT 16.08.2020
09:51 GMT 16.08.2020
09:41 GMT 16.08.2020
08:55 GMT 16.08.2020

It is unclear whether President Lukashenko was inside the vehicle, as it had no presidential insignia and was guarded less heavily than usual.

08:46 GMT 16.08.2020
08:45 GMT 16.08.2020
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