Aged protesters defy Belarus’ strongman


MINSK, Belarus (AP) — 1000’s of protesters who’ve flooded Belarusian cities for six weeks of demonstrations to demand an end to the 26-year rule of the nation’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko embrace people of all ages, professions and social groups.

Whereas youthful people make up the vast majority of the protests pushing for Lukashenko’s resignation after the Aug. 9 vote that the opposition sees as rigged, many retirees even have joined the daily demonstrations. Just a few of them spoke to The Associated Press about their motives and their hopes.


The 73-year-old former geologist has develop into one of many important recognizable faces of Belarus protests, fearlessly waving an infinite red-and-white opposition flag in entrance of riot police.

On better than 100 occasions, the police seized the flag from her, nonetheless every time she would make a model new one.

When police knowledgeable her that she was violating a ban on unauthorized demonstrations, she responded by saying “I’m taking a stroll” — the snappy reply now chanted by 1000’s of members in daily protests. A selfie with Bahinskaya has develop into a popular ceremony for lots of youthful protesters.

“I noticed that the riot police additional not typically beat protesters as soon as they see aged people amongst them,” she knowledgeable The Associated Press. “So I come out to protest as a defender, an observer and a witness. I’m psychologically and intellectually stronger than the police. Even amongst people who detained me, there have been people who revered me.”

Bahinskaya says she overcame her fear of authorities when Belarus was nonetheless part of the Soviet Union. She was detained dozens of situations and the fines she was ordered to pay have run into the equal of $20,000.


The 69-year-old former diplomat took half in opposition protests prolonged sooner than ultimate month’s vote. His daughter fled the nation to Ukraine collectively together with her boyfriend after they’d been crushed by police throughout the first days after the election, nonetheless Batsyan continued to attend demonstrations collectively collectively along with his partner.

“Now we attend the marches collectively,” Batsyan said. “Our dream is to remain in a free Belarus in any case for a while. I’ve seen heaps in my life, I don’t fear one thing anymore and I can’t check out what’s taking place with indifference.”

The opposition has adopted the red-and-white flag that was the state flag of Belarus throughout the first years after the Soviet collapse until it was modified with a modified mannequin of its Soviet-era flag in 1995. Batsyan proudly takes the red-and-white flag that flew over the Belarusian Embassy in Vienna when he labored there throughout the early Nineteen Nineties to protests.


Ruzhenkova, a 66-year-old former cello teacher at a musical college, sees the frequent protests as a “breath of latest air.”

She denounced Lukashenko’s description of protesters as “drug addicts,” noting that his speeches present a “full lack of custom.”

“I don’t want that president. I’ve no respect for him and actually really feel shame” for what he says and the best way he says it, she said.

Ruzhenkova said Lukashenko’s cavalier dismissal of the coronavirus outbreak, which he advised people to ward off by utilizing a tractor, having an on a regular basis shot of vodka and visiting saunas, angered Belarusians and helped fuel the protests.

“The coronavirus has demonstrated that he hasn’t confirmed any empathy,” she said.

Ruzhenkova deplored the assistance offered to Lukashenko by Russia, Belarus’ main sponsor and ally, arguing that with out it Lukashenko would have been compelled to step down already.


Ravinski, a 75-year-old pathologist, attended some protests collectively along with his daughter and a granddaughter.

“I come out to protest so that my youngsters and grandchildren have an ideal life,” he said. “By changing into a member of the protests, I current that everyone can do it with none fear.”

Ravinski has develop into broadly widespread on social networks when he confronted a phalanx of police in full riot gear at a protest shortly after the vote and said: “I can’t preserve watching this madness, and that’s why I bought right here proper right here. And I am going to preserve coming until I get killed.”


The 68-year-old former product sales skilled said she had little curiosity in politics sooner than signing as a lot as work as an observer via the Aug. 9 election and witnessing vote-rigging.

“One of the simplest ways election officers dealt with us was disgusting and it made me offended,” she said. “I can’t accept such enormous lies. Lukashenko has misplaced his ideas, dignity and conscience, he’s attempting to cheat all of the nation.”

Early via the protests, she sheltered a youthful protester when he was hunted by police all through a post-election raid throughout the Belarusian capital. Koval said she attends opposition demonstrations no matter having coronary coronary heart points.

“I can’t allow the thought that Lukashenko is just not going to step down,” she said. “And I am going to battle to complete his decided clinging onto vitality.”


Marachkin, an 80-year-old painter, denounces the Belarusian chief who typically admired the Soviet Union as a “Soviet holdover.”

The authorities have barred Marachkin from having personal exhibitions and eradicated his work from the nationwide art work museum.

“Collaborating in protests is a treatment for me,” Marachkin said. “In some other case, I would have stayed in mattress and would have died method again. The opposition marches fill me with energy.”


The 60-year-old Lahatskaya, who labored throughout the improvement sector, said she tries to speak to riot police when she attends protests, which she has been doing practically on day by day foundation for a month.

“I’m searching for one factor humane in them,” she said.

She argued that the Belarusian chief has misplaced public assist, noting that even her 94-year-old father who on a regular basis voted for Lukashenko stable his ballot in August for opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

She want to personally talk to the Belarusian chief to steer him to step down.

“I want to talk to Lukashenko. I really feel he’ll take heed to me,” she said.


The 85-year-old Hryb, a former teacher, said he hopes to remain to the day when Lukashenko steps down, together with that it must be declared a nationwide trip.

“It ought to develop into the nation’s main trip,” he said.

Hryb lamented that the Belarusians have been affected individual with Lukashenko for too prolonged.

“I be a part of protests to make Belarus a democratic and economically developed European nation,” he said. “I have been struggling for it for my full life.”


Kachanouskaya, a 72-year-old English teacher, said she has participated in protests in opposition to Lukashenko’s rule ever since he took the helm in 1994.

“It’s important to find methods to administration pure fear,” she said. “Why should I fear – I do all of the issues correct!”

She said she has instructed her 16-year-old grandson straightforward strategies to steer clear of being detained by police, together with that he was rounded up as quickly as because of he did not observe her advice.

“I’m more than happy with him!” she said.

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