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Crisis in Belarus: police threaten to fire live ammunition

The tension rises again. The Belarusian police will resort “if necessary” to live ammunition to quell the protest against President Alexander Lukashenko, the Interior Ministry warned on Monday, judging that the protest is “radicalized”.

The police “will not leave the streets and will use, if necessary, special equipment and combat weapons,” the ministry said on Telegram messaging.

According to the authorities, these measures are justified by the fact that “the demonstrations, which mainly moved towards Minsk, have become organized and extremely radical”.

Tens of thousands of people gathered every Sunday

On Sunday, police violently cracked down for the first time on the large weekly demonstration to protest President Lukashenko’s controversial re-election, deploying water cannons and stun grenades against the crowd.

The historic protest movement in Belarus, triggered by suspicions of massive fraud during the presidential election on August 9, has gathered tens of thousands of people every Sunday for two months.

On Monday, the European Union said it was ready to sanction the Belarusian president, due to the crackdown on post-election protests. “A political agreement has been found to expand the list of sanctions with the addition of President Lukashenko,” two diplomatic sources said after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Luxembourg. The decision has yet to be finalized and published in the Official Journal of the EU to enter into force.

Maintain a link with the population

The EU has already sanctioned 40 regime officials, including the interior minister and his deputy, accused of being involved in the repression and rigging of the August 9 presidential election, the result of which the EU does not recognize. . It has not yet sanctioned the Belarusian president in order to force him to accept mediation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to engage in discussions with the opposition to organize a new presidential election.

Several EU countries have also recalled their ambassadors to Minsk for consultations in solidarity with Poland and Lithuania, forced by Minsk to reduce the number of their diplomats stationed in Minsk. The EU wants to “coordinate its action” of protest, “but also seeks to maintain a link with civil society, victim of repression”, explains a diplomatic source.

Almost all of the opposition figures are in detention or in exile abroad and last week the authorities withdrew the accreditations of all foreign media, hampering coverage of the events. Hundreds of demonstrators, leaders of political movements, trade union organizations and journalists have been arrested since the beginning of August and imprisoned for having participated in or organized the protest.

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