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The 10 weeks leading up to the disputed re-election victory of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko saw multiple arrests of political opponents, a female trio defying the strongman and unprecedented street protests.

29 May

Video blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, who launched a campaign to unseat President Alexander Lukashenko, is arrested.

Jailed for disrupting public order, the 41-year-old entrepreneur who had become popular with his videos alleging government corruption is forced to drop out of the race. He then becomes the target of several criminal probes.

His wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 37, picks up the torch and gets the 100,000 vote sponsors needed, a considerable number in this country of 9.5 million people.

31 May

After Mr Tikhanovsky, it's the turn of Mikola Statkevich, a historic opposition figure, to be detained.

He spent five years in prison over a demonstration against the 2010 presidential election results and could not contest the current vote.

18 June

Viktor Babaryko, a 56-year-old former banker is arrested and accused of fraud and money laundering.

Some 140 people are arrested in the following days at opposition rallies throughout the country.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calls for the immediate release of all those held arbitrarily. 

In 2016, the European Union lifted most of the sanctions it had imposed on Minsk since 2010, the year when the opposition suffered a particularly severe government crackdown.

19 June

The electoral commission approves Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's candidacy.

Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, claims the country is not ready to vote for a woman.

25 June

President Lukashenko accuses both Russia and Poland of "interference" in the presidential campaign, denouncing "fakes" to discredit his rule.

The Kremlin denies the charge.

14 July

Hundreds protest across the country after the electoral commission rejects Mr Babaryko's candidacy for president, with calls for Mr Lukashenko to hand over power. 

More than 250 people are arrested.

The next day, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has sent observers to Belarus since 2001, says it has not been invited to monitor the election.

16 July

Three opposition movements decide to join forces to confront Mr Lukashenko, a first in the former Soviet republic.

Ms Tikhanovskaya's team announces she will work with those of Mr Babaryko and ex-diplomat turned opposition activist Valery Tsepkalo.

The same day Ms Tikhanovskaya appears in a photo beside both Maria Kolesnikova, who heads Mr Babaryko's campaign, and Mr Tsepkalo's wife Veronika.

Each one has her own signature gesture: Ms Tikhanovskaya's punched fist, Ms Kolesnikova's hands making a heart shape and Ms Tsepkalo's victory sign.

The three symbols feature on the campaign's key poster.


24 July

With tension rising in Minsk, Mr Tsepkalo flees to Moscow with his children, citing security concerns, his spokesman announces on July 24.

His wife stays behind in Belarus to carry on with the campaign.

29 July

Belarus announces the arrest of more than 30 Russian fighters from private military group Wagner, considered close to the Kremlin, accusing them of seeking to destabilise the run up to the election.

Historic allies, Russia and Belarus have seen ties strained since late last year, with Mr Lukashenko suspecting Russia of wanting to turn his country into a vassal state.

The Kremlin denies this.

30 July

Despite pressure from the authorities, more than 60,000 of Ms Tikhanovskaya's supporters gather in a Minsk park for the biggest opposition rally for at least a decade in Belarus.

"We want freedom!" shouted the stay-at-home mother who trained as an English teacher and who has become the face of the opposition.

"Sveta! Sveta!" the crowds cheered.

7 August

Days before the election, Ms Tikhanovskaya alleges election fraud, telling AFP: "We've seen over the past couple of days how brazenly this election is being falsified."

The next day, the head of her campaign is taken into custody after being arrested for the second time in three days.

9 August

The election takes place, and after  a violent crackdown on anti-government protests overnight Sunday, Lukashenko is declared the election winner with 80% of the vote. 

Germany expresses serious doubts about the result while the EU demands a precise ballot count.


10 August

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who recevied an official vote share of 10%, claims victory and calls on Mr Lukashenko to step down.

Protests continue across the country, with police using rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrations, though protesters fought back with stones and fireworks and built makeshift barricades.

One protester dies, while the interior ministry says it detained more than 2,000 people. 


11 August

Ms Tikhanouskaya says she has fled to Lithuania for the sake of her children.

In a short video she said she made "a very difficult decision" to leave the country.

Belarusian state media released a second video where Ms Tikhanovskaya urged supporters not to protest or break the law, apparently reading from a script.

Maria Kolesnikova, one of Tikhanovskaya's campaign partners, said "we think this video was recorded under pressure from law enforcement authorities."