Belarus ambassador declares solidarity with opposition protesters

Published by INDEPENDENT.CO.UK

The Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia has broken rank to declare solidarity with protesters in Belarus following the country's disputed presidential election.

"I stand in solidarity with those who came out on the streets of Belarusian cities with peaceful marches so that their voice could be heard. The Belarusians have achieved this right through suffering," Igor Leshchenya said in a video posted by Nasha Niva media on Saturday.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, has faced down a week of street demonstrations and refused demands for a re-run of an election protesters say was massively rigged to disguise the fact that he has lost public support.

The EU is gearing up to impose new sanctions on Belarus in response to a violent crackdown in which at least two protesters have been killed and thousands detained.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Mr Lukashenko's opposition rival in the contested election, has called for a huge "March of Freedom" through the centre of Minsk, the Belarusian capital, on Sunday morning.

At the same time, Mr Lukashenko's supporters are expected to hold a pro-government rally in central Minsk - setting the stage for potential confrontation between the two groups.

Videos on social media showed long columns of buses with pro-Lukashenko supporters onboard driving towards Minsk from various regions.