This weekend, around 200,000 Belarusian opposition supporters marched through the capital, Minsk, demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko. In the UK, hundreds rallied on the streets of London to show their support.
Protests began two weeks ago, after Lukashenko won a presidential election that critics say was rigged. Since then, thousands of demonstrators have been arrested in Belarus, with a number “stripped naked, beaten and threatened with rape”, according to Amnesty International.
The Belarusian government has also blocked internet access, preventing opposition activists from accessing information, posting videos of police attacking peaceful protesters or spreading clips of Lukashenko being booed by an audience specially selected for their apparent loyalty to the president.
On Saturday, Lukashenko was seen disembarking a helicopter in Minsk, carrying what appeared to be an automatic rifle. This apparent show of force chimes with Lukasenko’s promise to crush any dissent, and the Belarusian defence ministry’s announcement that the country’s army, rather than police, will respond to any demonstrations near Minsk’s memorials to WWII victims.
The defence ministry has called the anti-Lukashenko protesters “fascists”, and on Monday two members of the Belarusian opposition's coordination council, Sergei Dylevsky and Olga Kovalkova, were detained by police in Minsk for unspecified reasons.
As well as the protest in Minsk this weekend, demonstrations were held in cities across Belarus, alongside a solidarity protest in Lithuania, where thousands of people – including President Gitanas Nausėda – formed a 22-mile-long human chain from the capital city, Vilnius, to the Belarusian border.
See more photos of the solidarity protest held in London below.