MINSK – Belarusian authorities have detained more pro-democracy figures and activists amid an intensifying crackdown on opponents of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Police on August 12 detained a candidate in last year’s disputed presidential election, Andrey Dzmitryyeu, his colleague in the Tell The Truth civic movement told RFE/RL.
Tatsyana Karatkevich said Dzmitryyeu's whereabouts and the reasons of his detention remain unknown.
A day earlier, police and security forces searched homes and detained more than 20 members of the Skhod (Assembly) opposition initiative, including Belarus’s former ambassador to Slovakia, Ihar Lyashchenya, who has openly supported public protests challenging official results of the August 2020 election that handed Lukashenka a sixth term in office.
A group of Belarusian volunteers involved in locating detainees on August 12 listed Lyashchenya among dozens of individuals held in Minsk's notorious Akrestsina detention center.
It remains unclear why the homes were searched and on what charges the activists were being held.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.
Lukashenka in September 2020 stripped the diplomatic status of Lyashchenya and relieved him of his diplomatic rank because of his "misconduct."
Lyashchenya had resigned from the post of the Belarusian envoy to Bratislava on August 18 after he publicly supported the rallies sweeping across Belarus following the August vote that the opposition says was rigged.
Lukashenka, in power since 1994, has unleashed a harsh crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, while the West has hit the Belarusian strongman, his inner circle, and Belarusian firms with several rounds of sanctions, leaving Belarus’s strongman internationally isolated.
Several opposition figures were arrested in 2020 ahead of the election on various charges that the opposition and human rights groups call fabricated and politically motivated.
One of them, outspoken Lukashenka critic Mikalay Statkevich, marked his 65th birthday behind bars on August 12.
In total, Statkevich, a former presidential challenger whose candidacy for the last presidential election was rejected in May 2020, has spent eight years behind bars for his political activities.