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THOUSANDS IN BELARUS PROTEST AS OPPOSITION LEADER LEAVES

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, and other cities on Saturday in a further challenge to the rule of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, Claudia Thaler reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) on September 6, 2020.

The crowds of female demonstrators, who had responded to an opposition call for a "women's march," included many holding up the white-red-white flag of the opposition and others carrying flowers. According to reports, at least 5,000 women took to the streets. Police reportedly monitored the protest in Minsk. The march comes after the authoritarian regime toughened its line on dissent despite growing international pressure following elections in August that have been criticized as neither free not fair. 


German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned on Saturday that unless Lukashenko responded to the European Union's concerns, more sanctions could follow those already agreed by the bloc. Lukashenko needed to talk to the opposition and agree to rerun the election, Maas told the Bild newspaper.


Another prominent opposition politician, Olga Kovalkova, had left Belarus for neighboring Poland. She told internet news site tut.by that she had been pressured into leaving by authorities and that she wants to return to Minsk soon. "I am free now, but outside Belarus," Kovalkova told the Polish news agency PAP. The 36-year-old Kovalkova, a confidante of Tikhanovskaya's, was arrested in August and spent several days in detention before being released on Thursday.


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