Belarusian authorities detained three of the organizers of the massive protests demanding the removal from power of the president on Monday, accused of winning the elections by fraud.
The Coordination Council, an organization created by the opposition to negotiate a government transition, reported that Sergei Dylevsky and Olga Kovalkova were detained by police in the capital, Minsk. Shortly thereafter, he reported the arrest of Alexander Lavrinovich, the leader of a strike at an industrial plant.
The arrests seem to indicate the intention of the government of Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in office for 26 years, to suppress the demonstrations that are about to start their third week. The authoritarian leader, 65, was seen wielding a rifle as he arrived at his residence by helicopter on Sunday, not far from where the protests were.
Last week, Lukashenko warned that members of the opposition council could be arrested for creating what he called a parallel government. Shortly thereafter, the prosecution began criminal proceedings against the opponents, accusing them of threatening national security, which the opponents reject.
Dylevsky was one of the organizers of the strike at the Minsk tractor factory, one of several protests in the industrial sector called to express support for the protesters, and an open challenge to Lukashenko. Lavrinovich led the strike at a truck and crane factory in Minsk.
Kovalkova is an advisor to the candidate who lost the disputed August 9 elections, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran after her husband was jailed and who was forced to flee to Lithuania after the elections.
Tsikhanouskaya met on Monday with US Undersecretary of State Stephen Biegun in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. In a statement issued by her campaign, she expressed her willingness to engage in dialogue about a transition of power and to resolve the political crisis.
The United States and the European Union have denounced the elections in Belarus, stating that they were neither fair nor impartial, and have asked the authorities to initiate a dialogue with the opposition.