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Belarusian Opposition Plans More Protests As Economy Weakens

Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu takes part in a "flash mob" protest in Minsk on June 15.
A Belarusian opposition leader says that despite the harsh government-led crackdown, protests against the president will continue in light of a growing economic crisis there.

Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu of the Tell the Truth movement says the financial crisis in Belarus will compel various classes to come together and rally for political change.

The country's economy is faltering, with a 36 percent devaluation of the Belarusian ruble driving high inflation and fueling discontent over falling living standards.

The country stands in need of a bailout worth billions of dollars.

Protests against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have swelled since his disputed December reelection. The authoritarian leader has responded with a swift government crackdown.

Rights groups say at least 140 people had been convicted after a new wave of mass arrests following protests across Belarus on July 3. Many were arrested for participating in so-called "clapping" protests organized by way of social-networking sites

Internet activist Vyecheslav Dianov, who left his native Belarus in December, analyzed the demonstrations in comments to Reuters in Krakow.

"You can't compare our protests to any kind of sanctioned rally or demonstration because people come out without flags, without posters, they are not shouting slogans, they just stand on the street," Dianov said.

"Lukashenka even forbids them to be in the streets, clapping. Today he forbids them clapping, tomorrow he will forbid them to breathe."

The chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe joined the chorus of international criticism of Lukashenka on July 5, calling on the government halt its crackdown on dissent.

compiled from agency reports