Belarusians chanting “Step down!” filled the centre of the capital Minsk in the biggest protest so far against what they said was the fraudulent re-election a week ago of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko.
An estimated 100,000 opposition protesters rallied in Belarus’s capital on Sunday while Lukashenko rejected calls to step down and hold new polls.
The atmosphere at the rallies was celebratory with people carrying, red-and-white flags used in Belarus after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union before Lukashenko restored the Soviet version four years later.
“We all want Lukashenko to step down,” said a 31-year-old worker who gave his name as Alexei. “For now we are asking, but we will get sick of asking.”
Other major towns and cities in the country of nine million also saw large rallies, local media reported.
Opponents of Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, say the vote was rigged to disguise the fact that he has lost public support. He denies losing, citing official results that gave him about 80 percent of the vote.
The opposition has called for a general strike on Monday after hundreds of workers at state-run factories downed tools on Friday in a first sign that Lukashenko’s traditional support base was turning against him.