Lukashenko and Putin Photograph:( Reuters )
This is the freedom march. A campaign to oust a president. That has ruled over Belarus since its independence.
Belarus protests are the biggest that Europe has seen in years and it might get ugly. On Sunday, a massive crowd hit the streets demanding the exit dictator Lukashenko. Now, Russia may step in by sending its military to Europe.
Also read: Belarus: Lukashenko gives nod to fresh elections, says it will happen after adoption of new constitution
The independence square at the centre of the city was packed to the brim. Never before has Belarus seen such a massive campaign. It was a freedom march and a campaign to oust the president who has ruled over Belarus since independence.
The protesters were dressed in red and white - the colours of the Opposition. They were also waving the flag of the Opposition. According to a report, at least 200,000 people took to the streets.
A week back, Belarus had its presidential election. The results were announced and Alexander Lukashenko staked claim to a sixth term as the president of Belarus even as several people disputed the re-election which includes the Opposition in Belarus.
Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanoskaya had to run for her life. She had taken over as a candidate from her imprisoned husband. After the result, she has been living in exile in Lithuania. As Belarus protested, she sent a message to the people asserting that she is ready to lead.
Europe at large is standing up for Belarusians and against Alexander Lukashenko. Over the weekend several prominent cities in Europe joined the freedom campaign from a distance. There were protests in five European cities, alongside Minsk.
With European leaders greenlighting major sanctions, the situation has been getting out of hand for Alexander Lukashenko who has ruled over Belarus for 26 years. But the man who is known as the last dictator of Europe is adamant.
His supporters held a counter-protest. It was overshadowed by the freedom march. Lukashenko made a speech rejecting the demand for a new election.
On Monday, he took a helicopter to a factory in Minsk where more than five thousand workers were marching in protest but Lukashenko remained defiant.
Lukashenko has turned to Russia for help. He reportedly over the weekend spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice. He is already blaming a foreign hand for the protests against him and Russia is happy to help Lukashenko keep power.
The Kremlin has said that it is ready to send military help for “comprehensive military assistance” which means deployment of Russian soldiers and military assets.
The Kremlin reportedly is not to keen on getting its skin in the game just yet. Moscow has adopted a “wait and watch attitude” for now.
Last month, 33 men were arrested in Belarus as Lukashenko alleged they were Russian mercenaries trying to stir up trouble ahead of the elections.