Video Shows Belarus Riot Police Lowering Their Shields and Being Hugged by Protesters, as ‘Europe’s Last Dictator’ Clings to Power

  • Footage published by CNN on Friday shows riot police offi­cers in Belarus low­er­ing their shields in a sign of sol­i­dar­i­ty with the coun­try’s pro­test­ers and being embraced by them.
  • It comes after a  week of unprece­dent­ed protests against President Alexander Lukashenko and his claim to have won the coun­try’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Critics say the vote was rigged.
  • At least 6,000 pro­test­ers have been detained, with many report­ing being vic­tims of police tor­ture. The Belarusian inte­ri­or min­istry has since promised to release all the impris­oned demon­stra­tors.
  • Lukashenko, mean­while, is cling­ing to power. On Saturday he pub­lished a state­ment call­ing the protests a “sce­nario of aggres­sion against Belarus.”
  • He also released 32 Russian mer­ce­nar­ies that President Vladimir Putin has been trying to get back, in what could be a ploy to get Putin's support against the protesters.
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At least 50 riot police offi­cers in Belarus have low­ered their shields in a sign of sol­i­dar­i­ty with the pro­test­ers protest­ing last week’s elec­tion result, CNN reported.

CNN’s Mary Ilyushina on Friday tweet­ed a video of an offi­cer hold­ing their shield on the ground in front of the Central Elections Committee Building in Minsk. The pro­test­ers respond by hug­ging them.

Photos from the same loca­tion show pro­test­ers hug­ging riot police offi­cers.

The scenes come after a week of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, who last Sunday claimed vic­to­ry in the latest pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. His office said he had won over 80% of the vote, though crit­ics believe it was rigged.

Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994 and is widely described as “Europe’s last dic­ta­tor.”

Several mil­i­tary and police offi­cers have pledged not to attack pro­test­ers in an appar­ent rejec­tion of Lukashenko in recent days, accord­ing to CNN.

Belarusian TV sta­tion Nexta aired a video of a police offi­cer saying he would not follow “crim­i­nal orders.” He also urged col­leagues not to point their guns at peace­ful pro­test­ers.

Footage from this week’s demon­stra­tions showed pro­test­ers and police clash­ing, some­times vio­lent­ly. At least 6,000 people have been arrest­ed and detained, with many saying they were beaten and tor­tured upon arrest.

People detained during recent rallies of opposition supporters, who accuse strongman Alexander Lukashenko of falsifying the polls in the presidential election, show their traces of beatings as they leave the Okrestina prison early morning in Minsk on August 14, 2020. - Thousands of protesters formed human chains and marched in Belarus on August 13, 2020 in a growing wave of peaceful demonstrations over President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election and an ensuing brutal police crackdown. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)

Detained protesters show traces of what they said were beatings as they leave the Okrestina prison in Minsk on August 14, 2020.
SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images

The Belarusian inte­ri­or min­is­ter issued a rare apol­o­gy for the attacks on the pro­test­ers on Friday, saying that all demonstrators detained would be freed. Hundreds have been released so far.

On Wednesday, the coun­try’s state TV broadcast footage of six apparently bruised protesters promising to give up.

Putin helps out

As protests raged on, Lukashenko on Saturday pub­lished a state­ment call­ing the demon­stra­tions a “sce­nario of aggres­sion against Belarus,” and sug­gest­ed that there were “ele­ments of exter­nal inter­fer­ence,” accord­ing to BBC Monitoring.

The Kremlin also pub­lished a state­ment — albeit vague — saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko had spoken on the phone and “expressed con­fi­dence that emerg­ing prob­lems will be set­tled.”

Putin has long wanted Belarus to stay close­ly aligned to Russia, though his rela­tion­ship with Lukashenko was com­pli­cat­ed ear­li­er this month when Belarus arrest­ed 33 Russian mer­ce­nar­ies.

Russia, on Friday, announced that Belarus had returned 32 of those detained Russian cit­i­zens.

The release may have been part of Lukashenko’s ploy to encour­age Russian sup­port against the pro­test­ers. As one NATO offi­cial told Insider's Mitch Prothero earlier this week, before the Russians were released: “My guess is that Lukashenko will extract some sup­port from Putin and even­tu­al­ly return the mer­ce­nar­ies.”

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