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In Pictures: The faces of protest in Belarus |



Belarus has been rocked by street protests after demonstrators accused President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging the presidential election earlier this month, in which he claimed to have secured 80 percent of the votes.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for the last 26 years and is facing the greatest challenge to his leadership, denies the allegation.

Tatyana, a 29-year-old paramedic, joined the protests after treating those wounded when police tried to stifle demonstrations on August 9, the night of the election.

“Despite what they [protesters] were subjected to, [they] didn’t respond with violence,” she said, pointing to children mixed in among the protesting crowds as a sign of hope that they will remain peaceful. “They just want justice.”

For actor Mihail Zui, the banner he brandished was his resignation letter from one of the country’s premier cultural venues, the Yanka Kupala Theater. After its influential and popular director decided to support the protesters, he was fired – and Zui and most of the other performers quit in solidarity and anger.

Thirty-year-old Nikolay wore a homemade Batman-style mask, as protection and as a statement.

The protesters come from various generations and walks of life in a country that forms a buffer between Russia and Europe, and that had long seemed frozen in the repressive calm of the Soviet era; until now.

Among those breaking the silence was pensioner Ales Varhamiev, 62, who brought his guitar to play the protesters’ anti-Lukashenko anthem: Cockroach, Get Out.

Pavel Stavpinskiy, 43, was among the protesters, flashing a victory sign. He had been an observer in the presidential election, in which most opposition candidates were jailed or exiled.

Among the victims of the police violence was 18-year-old college student Alexander Laubert, who now gets around Minsk on crutches after riot police smashed his kneecaps.

Former police administrator Alexander Ahremchyk displayed his insignia and medals, which he no longer wears after quitting the service in the wake of the protests.

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