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Belarus opposition leader says national strike to begin

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Belarus opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (pictured) said on Sunday (25 October) a national strike would begin on Monday (26 October) after President Alexander Lukashenko’s government responded with force to protests against him earlier that day, writes Polina Ivanova.

Tsikhanouskaya had previously set a 'People’s Ultimatum' for Lukashenko to resign by Sunday night, promising to call a national strike if he did not.

“The regime once again showed Belarusians that force is the only thing it is capable of,” Tsikhanouskaya wrote in a statement. “That’s why on 26 October a national strike will begin.”

Belarus

2020 Sakharov Prize awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus

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Democratic forces in Belarus have been protesting the brutal regime since August 

The democratic opposition in Belarus has been awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. European Parliament President David Sassoli announced the laureates in the Brussels plenary chamber at noon today (22 October), following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents (president and political group leaders).

“Let me congratulate the representatives of the Belarusian opposition for their courage, resilience and determination. They have stood and still stay strong in the face of a much stronger adversary. But they have on their side something that brute force can never defeat - and this is the truth. So my message for you, dear laureates, is to stay strong and not to give up on your fight. Know that we are by your side,” President Sassoli said, following the decision.

“I would also like to add a word on the recent killing of one of this year’s finalists, Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, part of the Guapinol environmental group. The group is opposing an iron oxide mine in Honduras. It is imperative that a credible, independent and immediate investigation is launched into this case and those responsible must be held to account,” he added.

Protesting against a brutal regime

The democratic opposition in Belarus is represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women, as well as prominent political and civil society figures. Read more about the laureates, as well as the other finalists here.

Belarus has been in the midst of a political crisis since the disputed presidential elections on 9 August, which led to an uprising against authoritarian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka and a subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators by the regime.

The Sakharov award ceremony will be held on 16 December.

On Wednesday (21 October), Parliament also adopted new recommendations calling for a comprehensive review of the EU's relations with Belarus. Read more here.

Background

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is €50,000.

Last year, the prize was given to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.

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Belarus

#Belarus - EU ups sanctions, while Tsikhanouskaya issues an ultimatum to Lukashenka

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EU foreign ministers met to discuss the continued deterioration in the situation in Belarus (12 October). The EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said the EU was sending a clear message after the attacks on peaceful protesters on Sunday that ‘business as usual’ was no longer possible in EU-Belarus relations. The EU’s High Representative briefed ministers on a conversation he had with the Belarus Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, where he underlined the EU’s support for democratic freedoms and the rights of Belarusian citizens to peacefully protest. He also stressed during the call, that the EU wanted to see an inclusive national dialogue, as well as the acceptance of the OSCE as a mediator. Ministers gave their political green light to start preparing the next sanctions package, which will include the Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and members of his family. Today, one of the opposition leaders, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya issued an ultimatum to Lukashenka: 'Release political prisoners, end violence, resign by October 25, or the whole nation will strike, peacefully, on October 26 - blocked roads, no factory work, boycott of state shops.” She added, “'If you're waiting for my order, this is it.” Yesterday, the International Relations Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Franak Viacorka, reporter via Twitter that the Belarus Ministry of the Interior said: “The security forces won't leave the streets and will use lethal weapons if necessary. The protests, which shifted mainly to Minsk, became organized and extremely radical." EU Reporter asked the EU’s External Action Service spokesperson, Peter Stano, about this new threat. He said that with more bad behaviour the EU will continue to add to the sanctions list and restrictive measures, but will also reach out to call for an inclusive national dialogue.

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Police in Belarus detained 317 people at protests on Sunday - ministry

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Police in Belarus detained 317 people during protests in Minsk and across the country on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said on Monday (5 October), write Maxim Rodionov and Tom Balmforth.

Tens of thousands of people marched through the centre of Minsk to demand that the authorities free political prisoners, prompting police to turn a water cannon on them.

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