Thousands stage flower protest in Belarus as EU weighs sanctions
Protesters formed human chains and marched through the streets of Belarus carrying flowers on Aug. 12 in anger at a crackdown by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko that has prompted the European Union to consider new sanctions against Minsk.
Security forces have clashed with protesters for three consecutive nights after Lukashenko claimed a landslide re-election victory in a vote on Aug. 9 that his opponents say was rigged.
Police have detained around 6,000 people.
Lukashenko has sought better relations with the West amid strained relations with traditional ally Russia. Brussels lifted sanctions, imposed over Lukashenko's human rights record, in 2016, but will weigh new measures this week. Lithuania, Poland and Latvia jointly offered to mediate between Lukashenko and the protesters, and threatened sanctions at a European or national level if the offer was declined.
A former Soviet collective farm manager, the 65-year-old Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century but faces increasing anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a sluggish economy and human rights.
Women dressed in white formed a human chain outside a covered food market in the capital Minsk, holding flowers in the air and chanting slogans, while a crowd also gathered outside a prison where protesters were being kept.
"I cannot leave my children at night but I can come during the daytime and say my piece," said Minsk resident Yelena. "They have stolen not just my vote but 26 years of my life. Yes, I think so, and this regime must go away."
The Belarusian interior ministry said 51 protesters and 14 police officers had been injured in clashes on Aug. 11 night...