The Belarusians who demanded new democratic election without Lukashenka were met by the army and special police units. Candidates for President are arrested.
Another presidential election in Belarus has evolved along with the old scenario; the voting was forged, once again the opposition was not allowed to take part in vote counting, observers witnessed numerous violations, many voters were forced by officials to take part in the pre-election, the candidates for President had no access to the television and other media - just like during the last 16 years.
To raise a protest against the fraud, six oppositional candidates for President – Andrei Sannikov, Vladimir Neklayev, Rygor Kostusiov, Yaroslav Romanchuk, Vitaly Rymashevsky and Nikolay Statkevich – called upon people to come to Kastrychnitskaya Square (October Square) in Minsk on December 19 at 8 pm.
At 8 pm 40 thousand gathered in the square. Just before that it was announced that the headquarters of Vladimir Neklayev were seized by the special police forces. Activists of Neklayev’s campaign were supposed to bring loudspeakers to the square, but special police units seized the vehicle with the equipment. Everyone was forced to lie down facing the ground. The candidate himself was beaten up and driven away in an ambulance. The equipment was confiscated.
Nevertheless, several loudspeakers reached the square, where candidates for President – Andrei Sannikov, Nikolay Statkevich, Vitaly Rymashevsky, Rygor Kostusiov, Yaroslav Romanchuk, and Dmitri Uss - had arrived. The candidates addressed tens of thousands of people who had gathered there, and announced that according to independent exit-polls, Lukashenka had garnered only 31% in the entire country. He lost the election and the second round was to be expected.
“If there is no second round, then Lukashenka is indeed a tyrant,” Sergei Kaliakin, the head of the campaign “For Faire Election” said. Furthermore, he described the fraud taking place during the voting and claimed the election to be another farce.
Kastrychnitskaya Square was entirely filled with people. Even the skating ring deliberately arranged to cover nearly the entire square did not stop the demonstrators – they were standing on the ice.
People were chanting “Go Away!”, “We demand free election!”, “New election without Lukashenka!”
Candidate for President Andrei Sannikov announced the collapse of Lukashenka’s regime and declared a newly established Government of National Rescue. The Government of National Rescue would include the democratic candidates for President who had come to the square.
The candidates claimed that another, free election – this time without Lukashenka – must be negotiated with the incumbent government. Those who had gathered on the square started moving along Nezaleshnastsi Avenue (Independence Avenue) towards Nezalezhnastsi Square (Independence Square).
Tens of thousands of Belarusians filled the avenue, both the road and the pavement. The crowd demanded new and free election, and their slogans were heard all over the city center. Drivers left their cars and joined the rally. The demonstrators called their friends’ cell phones and urged them to come to the square, to raise the protest, not to be afraid.
Loudspeakers were installed in Nezalezhnastsi Square, and on behalf of all the candidates for President who were there (at that moment, all candidates who claimed their protest were there, apart from Yaroslav Romanchuk), Andrei Sannikov announced that the Government of National Rescue was ready to negotiate with the authorities.
The candidates for President demanded to be let in to the Government building in order to hold talks.
At that time, the demonstrators moved to decisive actions. Hundreds of strong men approached the entrance to the Government building and knocked to the doors. The windows shattered revealing… closets! The doors of the House of Government were barricaded from the people. The closets were dammed up by special police units.
During 20 minutes the demonstrators tried to throw down the closets and enter the building. Slogans “Go away!” and “We want talks!” were heard from the square.
Meanwhile, hundreds of fully equipped soldiers of special interior forces ran out from the left wing of the Government building. They had military boots, helmets and shields. The soldiers attacked the people and started to beat them up. The demonstrators were falling down on the ice. They were trampled and kicked. There, under the feet of special police units, was charter97.org editor Natalia Radzina. The police were beating her up and kicking her in her head, until someone from the crowd dragged her from under their feet.
According to witnesses, the police were holding electroshockers. Moreover, unknown gas was used against the demonstrators. All that made people move away from the entrance to the Government building, but nobody left the square.
The people remained standing on the square chanting “We want talks!” It was announced then that the talks would be held. The candidates approached the House of Government; high military officials who had just arrived to the square were heading the same way.
And at that moment, when the negotiations were already on (!), thousands (!) of soldiers of special forces ran out from behind the building and started to beat up the demonstrators. Ten military trucks drove out to the square; hundreds of people were beaten up and “packed” to the trucks.
Shortly after that, candidate for President Andrei Sannikov was pushed on the ground and beaten up. When he and his wife were about to drive to the hospital, their car was stopped. Sannikov was dragged ouside, beaten up once again and driven away. His wife Irina Khalip was pushed to another car; the police beat her head against glass.
Meanwhile, Nezalezhnastsi square was surrounded by trucks with the military. Soldiers equipped with body armor and helmets formed a chain preventing people from approaching the House of Government, while special police units were beating up and detaining the demonstrators.
After that the special forces blocked the avenue so that nobody could walk out to the street again.
According to human rights activists, from 200 to 500 people were detained. They were taken to the special distribution station in Okrestina street and to the temporary prison of Zhodino. Candidates for President Kostusiov, Statkevich and Rymashevsky were arrested after the rally, along with Andrei Sannikov. Natalia Koliada, the head of the Belarusian Free Theater, was also arrested. Head of the human rights service of the civil initiative European Belarus Lidia Chistova is at the hospital with a cranio-cerebral trauma. Hundreds of people were assaulted; some of them were taken to the hospital of Interior Ministry with cranio-cerebral traumas and smashed heads.
Information about arrests and detentions was coming during the whole night. Special forces officials in civics took Vladimir Neklayev right from the hospital ward. Leader of the United Civil Party Anatoly Lebedko was detained at his home.
The Belarusians were again urged to come out to Nezalezhnastsi Square on December 20, at 6 pm. “We will not leave! We must fight for our freedom and our choice!” claimed the opposition leaders. Now we must fight for the liberation of the candidates for President, whom the people of Belarus have given their votes.