President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has labeled protesters who took to the streets in defiance of what many believe are rigged voting results "people with a criminal record" and "unemployed."
According to the Belarusian President's press service, Lukashenko made the comment during a working meeting with government officials on Wednesday.
"Everyone who wants to work, who seeks to work, should have a job and a salary, accordingly. Everyone who doesn't work today should be looked into and offered a job. The core of all these so-called protesters is people with a criminal record, and today they are unemployed. No job, which means those folks just take to streets and avenues." Therefore, I am kindly asking and warning everyone: get a job, those who don't have one," Lukashenka said.
"And I'd like to warn some of our, to put it mildly, bourgeois citizens: God forbid that someone issue fake employment papers to anyone. Everything must be fair and decent," he said.
Lukashenko also instructed law enforcers and government agencies to ensure that his instructions are followed.
Belarus protests: background
- On August 9, Belarus held a presidential election.
- The country's Central Election Commission announced preliminary election results. Some 80.23% of voters supported incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, 9.9% voted for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 1.68% for Anna Kanopatskaya, 1.13% for Sergei Cherechnya, and 1.04% for Andrey Dmitriev. Some 6.02% voted against all candidates.
- On the evening of August 9, thousands took to the streets. Clashes with security officials ensued shortly. In Minsk, riot police fired rubber bullets in a crackdown on protests.
- Presidential candidate Tikhanovskaya refused to lead street protests and fled from Belarus. According to her press secretary, the politician would not want to end up behind bars like her husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky. Tikhanovskaya announced that she considers herself winner of the presidential election, and called on her rival, Alexander Lukashenko, to negotiate.
- Protests in Minsk and other Belarusian cities have been going on for three days. Hundreds of casualties have been reported.
- Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that one protester had died.
- Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has said a Ukrainian news photographer was beaten up and nine citizens of Ukraine were detained amid protests. Due to diplomatic efforts, all of them were released shortly.