VILNIUS – New mass demonstrations will rock Belarus again even though the repressions of the regime have led to changes in the form of protests of lately, Belarusian democratic leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said.
“Because of this big repression, people changed the form of protests, but for sure, we will see huge demonstrations, as we have seen in August and September, because people want new elections, a new country,” she told reporters on Thursday.
“Of course, it is difficult but people are not giving up,” she added.
Tsikhanouskaya talked to the media after a ceremony at Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius, during which she and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis laid a wreath to honor the memory of participants of the 1863 uprising and their commander Konstantinas Kalinauskas on the occasion of Belarus' Independence Day.
They also laid flowers on the grave of Belarusian politician, public figure and Belarus' "father" Anton Luckievich, who served as Belarusian prime minister in 1918, and his brother Ivan.
The Independence Day on March 25 is not celebrated officially in Belarus. On this day in 1918, the independence of the Belarusian Democratic Republic was proclaimed, but the republic only survived until early 1919 when the Bolsheviks took over power in the country.
The regime of Alexander Lukashenko bans the celebration of this day in Belarus and does not recognize it. The country's official Independence Day is marked on July 3. On that day in 1944, the Nazi Germany's army left Minsk which was then taken by the Soviet army.
According to Tsikhanouskaya, this year and March 25, Belarus’ Independence Day, are extremely important for Belarusian people.
“This year and this day are of special importance for Belarus people, because we are on a difficult path of fight for our democracy, for new Belarus,” she said.
“And at this very moment, when we stand here, a lot of people on the streets of different cities are being jailed and detained, but people are not giving up. Yesterday we saw lots of red and white fireworks in Minsk and our regime doesn’t understand that people are ready to fight for our independence,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
Ruling Belarus since 1994, Lukashenko was declared the winner of the August 9 presidential election. Based on the official figures, Tsikhanouskaya received over 10 percent of votes and came in second, but the country's opposition and the West believe the election was rigged.
The election results sparked an unprecedented wave of protests in Belarus. After it died down, protests of local nature continue in the country.