strike BelAZ auto plant belarus
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The protest at BelAZ
Workers at some of Belarus' biggest manufacturers, including automaker BelAZ, have called for strikes to protest over the results of a controversial election and subsequent crackdown on opposition by the country's government.

A group of BelAZ workers staged a protest at the company plant near the capital Minsk, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the scene. They wanted the entire plant to go on a strike in response to a continued crackdown on anti-government activists in Belarus. Others gathered for a separate rally outside the plant to support the demonstration of the workers.

Footage of the rally showed dozens of angry demonstrators decrying the violence used by Belarusian law enforcement against anti-government protesters. They chanted "Go away!" - a slogan directed by the opposition at the country's freshly re-elected president.



Management at BelAZ downplayed the protest, saying it amounted to nothing more than a meeting between them and the workers, who wanted their demands to be heard.


In addition to managers, the workers had drawn the attention of the mayor of Zhodino, where BelAZ manufacturing lines are located. His office drew some flak after borrowing buses owned by the plant and allowing the police to use them to crack down on protests in the city.


Similar worker protests were reported on Thursday at other major plants across the country, including construction materials manufacturer Keramin, fertilizer producer Grodno Azot, car maker MAZ, and others. Demonstrators at one such event in the city of Mogilev denounced the outcome of last weekend's presidential election, protesting that most of those present had voted for the opposition candidate.


The Belarus opposition media was quick to describe the events as a much-anticipated national strike that will put pressure on the government.


Anti-government sentiment escalated in Belarus after last Sunday's presidential election, which officially resulted in a landslide victory for incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko. The opposition insists the vote was rigged and has staged protests, demanding a new fair vote or, occasionally, for the president to concede defeat.

Belarusian law enforcement responded to the protests with force, which many observers believe to have been unjustified. At least two protesters have been reported killed amid the turmoil, while some 6,000 were taken into custody in recent days.

Belarus police also arrested local and international journalists covering the developments, adding credibility to accusations of abuse of power raised by the opposition.

Lukashenko on Wednesday remained adamant, dismissing protesters as a bunch of jobless troublemakers and criminals who threaten the public order in Belarus. The long-serving Belarusian leader had earlier claimed that foreign forces had orchestrated and funded the turmoil with the aim of ousting him.

After three days of the heavy-handed response, anti-government action doesn't seem to be subsiding in Belarus and, in fact, may be escalating.