Hundreds of opponents of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko marched through Warsaw on Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of their failed bid to topple him in a rigged election.
Protests raged for months after Lukashenko declared victory in the presidential election on August 9, 2020. Western governments endorsed the demonstrators’ demand for a peaceful transfer of power and sanctioned Belarus economically.
Lukashenko’s security forces cracked down violently on the protests, triggering a mass exodus of Belarusians, many of whom set up home in neighbouring Poland.
“It’s a very important day, three years since the start of our protests against Lukashenko, who stole our elections, our country,” said 54-year-old doctor Sviatlana Mishurova.
“We want our country to be free, so that the people in our country are free to choose their president.”
Marchers waved the historical Belarusian red and white flag, which is now the symbol of the opposition. One bore the slogan “For our freedom and yours”.
Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron first since 1994, using the security forces to intimidate, beat and jail his foes or force them to flee abroad.
Exiled opponents of Lukashenko met in Warsaw on Sunday to display unity and plan strategy including the issuance of “New Belarus” passports.
Set up in August 2022 by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus’s self-declared government-in exile has opened more than 20 alternative embassies and information centres abroad.
While the opposition is united by their anger at Lukashenko’s rule, they are divided over tactics with some saying it is time to do more to organise armed resistance.