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MINSK, Oct 30 — Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko held a meeting with his new security chiefs today following a reshuffle as he sought to tighten his grip on power after months of unprecedented protests.
The ex-Soviet nation has been gripped by huge demonstrations since Lukashenko, 66, claimed a landslide victory in an August presential election that opponents say was rigged.
Yesterday, Lukashenko replaced his interior minister and closed land borders with EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia as well as Ukraine, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
He also appointed a new police chief for the capital Minsk today.
Speaking at a meeting with newly-appointed Interior Minister Ivan Kubrakov and Minsk police chief Mikhail Grib today, Lukashenko said the “stability and well-being” of Belarusians depended on the efficiency of their work.
Kubrakov, 45, replaced Yuri Karayev, who presided over a brutal post-election crackdown on protesters which saw several people die and thousands arrested.
Yesterday, Lukashenko’s election rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a political novice who claims she was the real winner of the August election, described the reshuffle as a sign that his “power is weakening”.
“He is making these inconsistent decisions because he is in a panic,” Tikhanovksaya, who is in exile in Lithuania, said on her Telegram channel.
Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets every Sunday in protest at Lukashenko’s 26-year rule.
Tikhanovskaya had given Lukashenko until October 25 to quit, halt violence against protesters and release political prisoners.
On Monday, the opposition announced a strike while the authorities arrested nearly 600 people.
Experts say the political situation in Belarus is at an impasse, with the Moscow-backed Lukashenko refusing to go and the opposition unable to force his ouster. — AFP
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