Belarus moved police vans and barbed wire into the centre of the capital Minsk on Sunday forward of a brand new mass demonstration known as for the eve of crunch talks between President Alexander Lukashenko and his predominant ally, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Belarusians have been demonstrating towards the disputed re-election of Lukashenko for a month, with greater than 100,000 individuals flooding the streets of Minsk for 4 straight weekends. 

Amid an ongoing crackdown on opposition leaders, masked safety forces in police vans and army automobiles could possibly be seen making ready within the centre of Minsk forward of the most recent gathering which has been known as the “March of Heroes.”

On its web sites and social media channels, the opposition has introduced the slogan “We can’t let him promote the nation” forward of Lukashenko’s first face-to-face assembly with Putin since protests started, which is about to happen on Monday.

Analysts say Putin could search to use Lukashenko’s political vulnerability to wring concessions from him, however any agreements compromising Belarus’s sovereignty and independence are prone to enrage Belarusian protesters additional. 

During the last week, Lukashenko’s safety forces have stepped up arrests of opposition figures who’re nonetheless in Belarus. 

After a large protest final Sunday, Maria Kolesnikova, one among three distinguished ladies opposition figures, was jailed after she resisted expulsion and tore up her passport. 

Greater than 600 individuals have been detained final Sunday in one of many largest waves of arrests because the early days of the demonstrations. 

In search of to intimidate protesters additional, males in civilian garments with batons chased and beat up demonstrators as crowds progressively dispersed final Sunday.

Masked riot police on Saturday violently detained a number of dozen ladies demonstrators and threw them into vans throughout a smaller protest in Minsk.

– ‘Heroic individuals’ – 

Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who the protest motion says gained the vote on August 9 however was compelled overseas, paid tribute to all those that deliberate to take to the streets for Sunday’s demonstration, which is about to start at 1100 GMT.

“Over the previous month now we have grow to be a very heroic individuals,” Tikhanovskaya, a political unknown till the election, mentioned in a video handle.

“We’re persevering with our struggle for freedom,” mentioned the 38-year-old former stay-at-home mom, who has fled into exile in neighbouring EU member Lithuania.

Tikhanovskaya contested the election after her blogger husband was jailed and barred from working together with a number of different distinguished Lukashenko critics. 

The unprecedented protests broke out after Lukashenko, who has dominated the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, claimed re-election with 80 p.c.

Lukashenko has refused to step down and has turned to Russia for assist to stay in energy.

On Friday, america mentioned it might impose new sanctions on Belarusian figures inside days and warned Moscow that persevering with to again the strongman would solely alienate Belarusians.

Chatting with reporters, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun requested how Moscow may “again such a regime and such violence towards peaceable residents.”

“If the Kremlin continues down this path, it dangers turning the Belarusian individuals, who don’t have any grievance with Russia, towards Moscow,” he mentioned.

Traditionally Russians and Belarusians have loved good relations and the opposition says the protests aren’t geared toward Russia.

Putin and Lukashenko are set to satisfy within the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, with the Kremlin saying the talks will cowl integration plans in addition to key commerce and vitality tasks.

Putin has been eager to unify Russia and Belarus, and Moscow has accompanied its presents of army and financial assist with requires tighter integration. 

Lukashenko has previously dominated out outright unification with Russia however his choices are actually restricted, analysts say.

His safety forces have detained hundreds of protesters, a lot of whom have accused police of beatings and torture. 

A number of individuals have died within the crackdown.

UN Secretary Common Antonio Guterres mentioned on Friday he was “deeply involved” over the usage of power towards peaceable protesters and “the detention of individuals exercising their reliable democratic rights.” 

The European Union mentioned Saturday that it deplored “the more and more open disregard for the rule of legislation in Belarus” and reiterated its dedication to impose sanctions. 

It mentioned it was “able to take additional restrictive measures as mandatory.”