Belarus state TV staff join protests

State TV staff in Belarus have staged a walk out as part of the ongoing protests against the results of last week’s disputed election, which were in favour of President Alexander Lukashenko, it was reported on Monday.

A state TV broadcast on Monday morning showed empty news desks, the BBC reported.

Current and former staff have been reportedly holding a rally outside the TV and radio building in Minsk in protest against censorship and the election results.

Due to the walk-out, TV channels had to run repeat telecast of programmes.

Last week, workers at state-run factories walked out in solidarity with the protesters, and more strikes are planned for this week, increasing the pressure on the President, said the BBC report.

A wave of anger has been rising since the Central Election Commission said Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80.1 per cent of the August 9 vote, while the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya garnered only 10.12 per cent.

Tikhanovskaya, who left for Lithuania after publicly denouncing the results, insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60-70 per cent.

In a video message released on Monday, Tikhanovskaya said she was ready to become a “national leader” in order to restore calm and normality, freeing political prisoners and preparing for new elections.

According to local, independent news site, Sunday’s opposition rally in Minsk was “the largest in the history of independent Belarus”.

Pro-Lukashenko rallies were also held in the capital, with the opposition event appearing to attract much higher numbers, the BBC reported.

An official report said 65,000 people had attended the presidential rally but unofficial estimates were as low as 10,000.

Unofficial estimates for the opposition gathering ranged between 100,000 and 220,000.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko has sought Russian help, saying President Vladimir Putin has promised to provide comprehensive assistance in the event of any external military threat.

In a conversation on Sunday, the two leaders discussed “the situation in Belarus, taking into consideration the pressure the republic was being put under from outside”, the Kremlin said.