Security forces will not remain anonymous, anti-Lukashenko protesters say
Anonymous hackers leaked the personal data of 1,000 Belarusian police officers in retaliation for a crackdown on street demonstrations against the veteran president, Alexander Lukashenko, as protesters staged another mass rally.
“As the arrests continue, we will continue to publish data on a massive scale,” said a statement distributed by the opposition news channel Nexta Live on the messaging app Telegram. “No one will remain anonymous, even under a balaclava.”
The government said it would find and punish those responsible for leaking the data, which was widely distributed on Saturday evening.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Sunday despite authorities deploying a heavy police presence. The protest came a day after officers detained hundreds of demonstrators at a women’s march in the city.
People holding red and white protest flags gathered at the “March of Justice” that occupied the whole of a central avenue and walked towards the heavily guarded Palace of Independence, where Lukashenko has his offices. They held placards with slogans such as “Cowards beat up women” and “Get out!”.
The loyalty of the security forces is crucial to Lukashenko’s ability to cling on to power after last month’s presidential election, in which he claimed a landslide victory. His opponents say it was rigged to hand the former Soviet collective farm boss a sixth term.
Security forces have detained thousands of people to tackle a wave of protests and strikes, their faces often obscured by masks, balaclavas or riot helmets. Some protesters have physically torn off the masks of officers.
The government said 390 women were detained for taking part in a protest on Saturday against Lukashenko. Most have been released. The scale of the detentions prompted the opposition’s coordination council to warn of a “new phase in the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters”.
Among those detained was one of the most prominent faces of the protest movement, the 73-year-old activist Nina Baginskaya, although she was later released.
Lukashenko’s crackdown on the protests has prompted the EU to consider new sanctions against his government.
Minsk reacted angrily on Saturday to reports that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the leading opposition candidate in last month’s election, could soon meet EU foreign ministers.
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, criticised the EU for inviting Tikhanovskaya to the ministerial meeting as well as for considering sanctions against Minsk, saying Brussels was trying to “rock the boat” in Belarus.