Lukashenka warns of crackdown on further unsanctioned opposition protests

Alyaksandr Lukashenka warned on Sunday that unsanctioned opposition street protests would no longer be tolerated after the polls closed later in the day.

“The election ends at 8 p.m., start abiding by laws,” he said, commenting on several demonstrations staged by his opponents in central Minsk in September and October. The demonstrations, which had not been authorized by authorities, were not dispersed but fines were imposed on their organizers.

“Even when they took to the streets yesterday there was not a single policeman,” Mr. Lukashenka said, speaking about Saturday’s opposition march through downtown Minsk that drew up to 1,500 people. “I ordered strictly that they touch no one before the election. I prohibited every move, even where laws were violated. But the election ends today at 8 p.m.”

He warned that no one would be allowed to “destabilize” the situation in Belarus.

Mr. Lukashenka said that there were only about 400 opposition activists in the country. Opposition demonstrations are attended by them and “bystanders,” he said. “I advise them to abide by laws. Not because we fear for these 400 people. We are worried about those bystanders who gather,” he said.

He suggested that his opponents stage demonstrations at venues where such events are permitted. “Gather there, I will welcome that,” he said. “Let them gather, discuss problems, criticize the government and become the normal opposition.”

Mr. Lukashenka said that he would not take away “foreign grants” from opposition forces but promised to tell the people about the sources of the money. // BelaPAN