The democracy movement in Belarus has called for a general strike across the country on Monday to increase the pressure on authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko to step down.
In calling for the strike from exile in neighbouring Lithuania, Lukashenko’s leading opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya urged people to think about the future of their children and to fight for a life in freedom.
The 38-year-old emphasized that she understands if people fear for their jobs, so she urged them to just stay at home instead. The fight against Lukashenko needs strength and perseverance, she added.
Since the controversial presidential election on August 9, there have been repeated protests in the former Soviet republic because Lukashenko, after 26 years in power, was declared the winner yet again with over 80 per cent of the vote.
The democracy movement claims Tikhanovskaya was the true winner.
The EU supports Lukashenko’s opponents and no longer recognizes the long-time ruler as president. The 66-year-old receives his support from Russia.
Public service employees and civil servants in Belarus are repeatedly threatened with dismissal if they oppose Lukashenko. The democracy movement has therefore set up an aid programme and is calling on people to apply for money from the fund.
Analysts doubt that Tikhanovskaya can achieve a lot from outside the country. Nevertheless, according to reports, there are several state-owned companies that want to completely or partially stop work.
Tikhanovskaya had given Lukashenko an ultimatum to give up his post, end police violence, release political prisoners and call new elections by Sunday. As expected, the 66-year-old allowed the deadline to pass without acting.