On July 30, another rally in support of presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya took place in the Peoples’ Friendship Park in Minsk. According to human rights centre Viasna, 63,000 persons took part in the event, which has become a new record for the recent ten years.
Notably, on Thursday morning, the authorities warned the four presidential hopefuls of the feasibility of ‘provocations’ during pre-election events after the detention of 33 militants of the Russian PMC Wagner, whose goal, according to the Belarusian side, was ‘destabilising the situation in the run-up to the election’. Due to that, security measures were strengthened at the rally.
Screenwriter Andrey Kureychyk compared the participants with knight Lancelot, a character of the story about the dragon intimidating the people.
“Each of us is Lancelot, each of us is Syarhei Tsikhanouski,” he said, urging Belarusians to become election observers.
There were also elements of a concert at the rally: bands Loudscage, Pylai, B:N:, Litesound, as well as musicians Lera Yaskevich, Maxim Znak, Alyaksandr Kiss and Syarhei Kosmas performed for the audience.
“I am running for presidency not for my own sake. I am running for presidency for the sake of my husband. I am running for presidency for the sake of my children and your children. I am running for presidency for the sake of all of you,” Tsikhanouskaya stressed.
The presidential candidate also commented on the new accusations levelled against her husband of the back of the arrest of the Russian militants. She stressed that the militants had been repeatedly spotted in Belarus before, but for some reason, the special services played this card only ahead of the election. She called on the authorities not to lump the election and the militants together.
“What revolution are you constantly talking about? We just want fair elections! What for are you stirring trouble? We are peaceful people and we are in favour of peaceful changes in our country,” she said, addressing the government.
According to the presidential hopeful, if she gained the majority of votes, she would release political and economic prisoners, hold a referendum on the return of the 1994 Constitution that limited the number of presidential terms, and create the conditions for a fair and free presidential election.
Her associate Maryia Kalesnikava, a coordinator at the imprisoned presidential wannabe’s campaign office, called Viktar Babaryka ‘a person who loves Belarus very much’.
“Yesterday they arrested a person who wanted to become President. Today they arrest a person who is set to vouch for him. Tomorrow they might arrest all Belarusians for having their own opinion. Is this normal?” she wondered.
In turn, Veranika Tsapkala, the wife of the runaway might-have been presidential candidate Valery Tsapkala, recalled that her husband and to kids had left Belarus due to the pressure from the authorities. She addressed incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka and said that he had not managed to improve the living standards in the country for his 26-year rule.
“We want change,” she said.
At about 10 pm, the participants began to disperse. No arrests or incidents have been reported.