Belarus opposition step up factory strikes

Peter Spinella
·1-min read

Belarus' opposition movement has stepped up strikes at state factories in an effort to cut off sources of funding for the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

The strikes targeted some of the most significant enterprises in the country in response to Lukashenko disregarding an ultimatum to resign and release all political prisoners.

The factories included oil major Belarusneft, fertiliser giant Belaruskali, car makers MAZ, MZKT and Belkommunmash, tractor manufacturer MTZ and appliance maker Atlant, the opposition movement said in a statement.

Managers "tried to intimidate people with riot police in the usual collective-farm manner, yelling at the workers and resorting to ridiculous threats to deprive them of pay. This only reminds them of why they took to the streets," the statement said.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and Poland, is one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Its economy remains dependent on large state factories inherited from the Soviet era.

The Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna reported that more than 180 people had been detained at strikes and other protests in the country on Monday.

Belarusian authorities said that the previous day more than 500 protesters were detained at unauthorised demonstrations in the country.

An estimated 100,000 people attended protests in Minsk and other major cities on Sunday, the deadline for the opposition's ultimatum to Lukashenko.

There have been mass protests in Belarus every weekend since a disputed presidential election on August 9.

The opposition alleges that the voting was rigged to ensure victory for Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for more than 26 years.