Thousands of protestors fill streets in Minsk over election results

Thousands of opposition supporters gathered in Minsk on Sunday to protest after exit polls showed Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko had won reelection. Many tried to storm the main government building.

Following exit polls that suggest Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has been reelected, at least 10,000 opposition supporters have taken to the streets of Minsk.

Thousands tried to storm the main government building to protest what the opposition claims was large-scale vote-rigging in the presidential election.

The protestors broke windows and glass doors, but backed off after discovering riot police inside the building.

According to an exit poll for Belarus public ONT television, Lukashenko won 72.2 percent of the vote which, if confirmed, would give him an outright first-round victory.

Lukashenko, seeking a fourth term in office, earlier warned the opposition against holding protests and banned public gatherings on election day.

Anti-riot police intercepted 200 demonstrators, letting off noise grenades and beating people with truncheons.

One of the nine challengers seeking to unseat Lukashenko was badly wounded in clashes. Vladimir Nekliayev was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital for treatment for a concussion, according to his spokesperson.

The opposition speaks

In Minsk's main Independence Square, thousands of opposition supporters gathered to hear speeches from five of the candidates, who widely condemned the election.

"This was a farce and not an election," opposition candidate Yaroslav Romanchuk told the protestors. "The authorities had the chance to extend us a hand but again they did not."

According to the exit poll, opposition candidates Andrei Sannikov and Vladimir Nekliayev won 6.1 percent each, while Romanchuk won 3.3 percent.

The opposition has denounced the controversial practice of early voting, which saw 23 percent of people cast their votes before election day.

Police estimate the number of those rallying in and around the square was around 5,000. However, media outlets varied in their estimates, with some saying the figure was at least 40,000.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (dpa, AFP)

Editor: Kyle James


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