Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus' long-time ruler, has expressed his opinion about Belarusian protesters who have been contesting the results of the latest presidential election they believe was rigged.
The comment came during Lukashenko's interview with Kremlin propaganda media.
Read alsoMarch of Unity in Belarus: Police, plain-clothed masked men chase down, beat, detain protesters (Photo, video)According to the long-term leader, who claimed a landslide win in the latest election on August 9, the ongoing rallies against the voting result are run via Telegram channels.
"And you see how people go out there: sometimes they go careless, bringing along their children. At the latest rally, 2/3 of participants were women, also some young people come..." Lukashenko said.
Chief of Russia Today propaganda outlet Margarita Simonyan responded to this by saying: "We all know this well. We've been there."
Lukashenko went on: "It even got to the point where our men started hiding behind women and children. It's just that we've already had this 75-80 years ago: when the Nazis would put women ahead of them to hide behind their backs."
Women at Belarusian rallies: background.
- Female protesters started self-organizing in massive groups after law enforcers delivered a violent crackdown on peaceful rallies at their onset on August 9-11.
- Women would mostly come out carrying flowers, calling for security officers to side with protesters and cease violence.
- Women were also seen actively defending male protesters whom law enforcers would try to apprehend one by one, snatching them from the crowd. Groups of female activists would get into a circle formation, surrounding groups of security officials and apparently confusing the latter.
- On September 8, at the rally in support of opposition's Maria Kolesnikova, numerous cases of violence against these female groups were already reported.
Belarus protests: developments
On August 9, presidential elections were held in Belarus. The country's Central Election Commission announced the final election results. In particular, 80.1% of voters supported incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, 10.1% voted for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 1.67% for Anna Kanopatskaya, 1.2% for Andrey Dmitriev, and 1.14% for Sergei Cherechnya. Some 4.59% voted against all candidates.
Thousands Belarusians took to the streets to protest what they believe is a rigged vote count. Riot police violently cracked down on protesters. Belarus' Ministry of Internal Affairs said about 7,000 protesters had been detained in different cities since August 9. On the evening of August 13, the authorities started to release detainees.
The first March of Freedom, the largest protest in the history of Belarus, took place in Minsk on August 16, and every Sunday since.
On August 20, the Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal probe into the attempt by the opposition to "seize power."
Lukashenko has repeatedly claimed "foreign interference" in the election and the external efforts to foment protests. He spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin who had promised him comprehensive assistance upon request.
Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin has warned of the possible use of army to disperse protesters rallying under the flags he claims were once used by Nazi troops.