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Belarus factory workers strike as women protest in the streets

The capital Minsk has seen something resembling urban warfare, with police officers in full riot gear engaged in nightly pursuits of demonstrators.

Police have fired rubber bullets at passers-by, snatched drivers from their cars and roughed up residents for holding flowers in protest. In response, workers at Minsk’s iconic Tractor Works downed their tools to come out in protest outside the factory. Managers at the Tractor Works claimed there was no such walkout.

A police officer keeps guard as people gather during a rally against the results of the country's presidential election outside the Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAZ) in Zhodino, north-east of Minsk, Belarus, Thursday.

A police officer keeps guard as people gather during a rally against the results of the country’s presidential election outside the Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAZ) in Zhodino, north-east of Minsk, Belarus, Thursday.Credit:AP

Meanwhile at the BelAz heavy machinery factory in the Minsk suburb of Zhodzina, workers yesterday marched to local government offices to demand Lukashenko’s resignation, an end to violence, the release of all political prisoners and a new election. The factory’s press office insisted there was no strike.

Roman Golovchenko, the Belarusian prime minister, dismissed reports of industrial action as untrue, saying that they aim to “create a myth about some sort of destabilisation”. In a sign that support for the regime is beginning to fade even in state-owned media whose sole job has been to praise it, seven prominent TV anchors have resigned in protest.

On Thursday, groups of protesters thronged in the streets throughout the day, holding flowers and flashing V-signs. At one church, around 100 people joined an interdenominational prayer against police violence.

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“Christian believers cannot be indifferent to what’s happening,” Tikhon Tilkovsky, a pastor from the Holy Trinity parish of the Reformed Church in Minsk, said. “We have never seen this unity of Belarusians before. Support for this government is tiny, nothing as big as what the president tells us.”

Nearby, at least 2000 women marched down the city’s main street, holding white flowers. Many spoke of their shock at countless stories of police violence against city residents.

“I want my vote for Tikhanovskaya to be counted fairly,” 33-year old Anastasia Kolossovskaya said of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is now in Lithuania after she was reportedly forced to flee the country.

“I feel completely defenceless and powerless. There’s nothing we can do.”

More than 6500 people have been detained at anti-government protests across Belarus since Sunday night, half of them in Minsk, and at least 100 people have been injured.

Dozens of doctors and nurses came out to the street outside their hospital in Minsk yesterday evening to protest against the government’s heavy-handed response.

“We’ve been receiving so many young people who got seriously hurt and even maimed for life,” anaesthesiologist Anton Orkhamenko told The Telegraph.

“Why do their lives have to be broken like that?”

Telegraph, London

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