08/17/2020, 09.02
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Minsk Christians, the procession for peace

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Anticipating Pope Francis’ appeal, hundreds of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants demonstrated against violence and for peace. Yesterday’s massive demonstration to ask for new elections (some estimates speak of 200 thousand people). Lukashenko challenges opponents by rallying tens of thousands of his supporters. Meanwhile, the workers go on strike and parents and women demonstrate. At least two police victims.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis’s appeal for dialogue and peace in Belarus, recalled yesterday at the Angelus, shows an ever-increasing involvement of Christians in the tensions that have arisen in the country following the election results.

On August 13, a few dozen people gathered next to the Catholic Cathedral of the Virgin Mary: the Orthodox with icons, Catholics with rosaries, Protestants with Bibles (photo 3). Reciting the Our Father together, they moved from Freedom Square to the capital's main Orthodox church, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, where a no less numerous group of people awaited them.

At the head of the procession were three seminarians and a deacon from the Catholic cathedral, Jurij Reshetko (photo 2). They told the BelaPan agency that the prayer procession was intended to stop the violence taking place in the country. A peace celebration took place in the Orthodox cathedral; part of the faithful attended from the square in front: in all several hundred people participated. This occurred despite the stance taken by the Orthodox exarchate of Belarus, which distanced itself from any type of demonstration, including that of its own faithful.

The Orthodox communiqué states that “the position of the Orthodox Church of Belarus is in favor of peace, of mutual understanding between all the parties in conflict, trying to avoid excesses. Take care of yourself and your neighbor, do not give in to provocations and act within the limits of the law of Christian love, and of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus ". However, several Orthodox priests have joined the demonstrations in recent days, even against the advice of the metropolitan and the bishops.

Moreover, the Belarus protest show no sign of stopping: They are now in their eighth day, and again yesterday, Sunday 16 August, tens of thousands of people gathered in the center of Minsk (according to various estimates, from 50 to 200 thousand, in line for three kilometers - see photo 1) to ask to repeat the elections, without violence and without cheating, to the slogan: "Lukashenko in the avtozak!" ("Avtozak" is the police truck where the arrested are beaten), or: "The sheep go baaaa, we say: Go away!" (the president had compared the demonstrators to sheep paid and trained by the Lithuanians and the Germans).

President Lukashenko in turn gathered his supporters, made to arrive by special coaches from the countryside (he himself, in Soviet times, was president of a kolkhoz, a socialist farm) up to a mass of 70,000 people, at least according to official statements. Protests are held in all the other cities of the country: Grodno, Gomel ', Brest, Mogilev, Baranoviči, Vitebsk, Bobruysk and others.

The funeral of Aleksandr Vikhor (photo 4), one of the victims of the violent repression in Minsk in recent days, was also held in Gomel: he fell ill after the police arrest and the beatings received, and the ambulance did not arrive in time to save him. Videos have also been published involving another victim, Aleksandr Tarajkovskij, whose death was attributed to a Molotov cocktail that exploded in his hand, but from the video it is clear that he was shot down by policemen and that he did not have any weapons.

In these days the strikes of the workers in various factories have also begun. As in the Ukrainian Majdan uprising in 2013, after the children, parents and women began to take to the streets, despite continued violent repression by the police

Lukashenko had claimed that the demonstrations have brought together unemployed and criminals, and for this reason many take to the streets only after working hours. Many are asking the president to take a seat in a Russian dacha, next to former Ukrainian president Janukovič, a refugee on the outskirts of Moscow after the Kiev Majdan riots.

Aleksandr Lukašenko, however, in recent days had to deny the rumors of his imminent departure from the country: "For now, I am alive and not abroad, as some news sites would like", commented the president in an extraordinary meeting of the Belarusian Security Council. In his opinion, "if our people continue to strike, they will make the fortune of our competitors from Russia and Canada, who will invade our markets ... let them go to work! ".

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