Belarus prepares for large-scale anti-government protest in Minsk

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Belarusian police are getting ready for anti-government protests in Minsk and some other big city.  Police in Belarus have arrested dozens of people in a crackdown on planned anti-government protests, according to activists.

The arrests came as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whol has ruled the former Soviet country for 17 years, told an open-air rally that a plot was in the offing to overthrow him and that he would block it.

Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko, often called “the last dictator in Europe,” had long kept his country aligned politically, economically and militarily close to Russia. But this relationship deteriorated after the Russian invasion of Crimea — and as Lukashenko began to hedge, albeit slowly and very cautiously, toward the West.

In February-March, there has been an eruption of protesting the so-called tax on idlers in Belarus. Hundreds of Belarusians have been detained, fined, jailed after recent non-parasite marches. Most of them were accused of violating the order of holding mass events and disobedience to police officers’ demands. It should be noted that plainclothes policemen who refuse to show their IDs a or introduce themselves often beat people and prevented journalists from performing their professional duties.

Lukashenko in the past has resorted to widespread crackdowns when opposition grew, notably in protests that erupted after the 2010 presidential election. Some 700 people were arrested at the time, including seven of the candidates who ran against him.

One of those candidates, Nikolai Statkevich, spent five years in prison but is challenging the system again as an initiator of the current protests, which he sees as a watershed.

“Belarus is waking up … political demands for regime change are coming,” he said.

Anti-government protests in previous years had been largely driven by the young and well-educated. But many protests this year have been in provincial cities, an indication that discontent is spreading to another sector of society.

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