People in Vilnius gathered on Friday to protest against political repressions in Belarus. Leading opposition candidates, as well as activists and protesters, have been detained in Belarus as the country gears up for the August 9 presidential elections.
Around 120 people took part in the demonsration, according to the organisers. The mixed crowd of Lithuanians and Belarusians, including politicians, held signs calling for political prisoners to be released, as well as white-red flags of the short-lived Belarusian People's Republic of 1918–19.
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“Our colleagues and compatriots in Warsaw and Kyiv have already conducted demonstrations and we wanted to join this movement,” said Viktoryia Andrukovich, one of the several Belarusians who organised the demonstration.
The protest was to express “solidarity with political prisoners and their supporters in Belarus and also to draw attention of the international community,” she added.
Belarusian long-time leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has cracked down on dissent, detaining activists as well as independent candidates.
“We had similar events not that long ago,” said Vilija Navickaitė at the rally in reference to Lithuania‘s independence movement Sąjūdis.
“We came to support to support those who are imprisoned,“ she added. “We want to solidarise because they are our neighbours.”
On Thursday, Belarusian authorities arrested Viktor Babaryka, a front-running opposition candidate. Scores of other activists have been detained as demonstrations swept across the Eastern European country.
"I saw the protests happening in Minsk yesterday [and] that feeling of solidarity made me cry,“ said Kseniya, a young Belarusian who arrived in Lithuania on Thursday. "If the government is not willing to change [the situation], we will.”
On June 19, the European Union called on Belarus to immediately release Babaryka and his son from detention "Any investigation must be impartial and without political pressure," the's EU foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano said in a statement.