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Belarus opposition supporters attend a demonstration in central Minsk on Aug. 16. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in the Belarus capital of Minsk on Sunday as President Aleksandr Lukashenko, the man known as "Europe's last dictator," rejected calls to hold a new election and accused NATO of massing at the country's western border.

Why it matters: It was the eighth day of demonstrations since Lukashenko proclaimed a landslide victory over pro-democracy opposition in an election widely viewed as rigs, and likely the largest protest in the history of the former Soviet republic, according to the New York Times.

The state of play: Lukashenko's claims of a military buildup by NATO, which the Western alliance denied, came after the authoritarian leader revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had pledged "comprehensive security assistance" if necessary to fight back foreign forces.

  • Condemning anti-government protesters as "rats" controlled by "puppeteers" and "outsiders," Lukashenko warned at a rally that Belarus would "perish as a state" if the election were rerun, according to AP.
  • Many of the supporters at the rally, which was dwarfed by upwards of 300,000 people who turned out to protest, had to be bused in from towns and villages outside of Minsk — reflecting Lukashenko's dwindling support, according to the Times.
  • The protest took on a lighter and more celebratory tone than the nightly demonstrations, which have resulted in over 6,000 arrests and an untold number of injuries as protesters violently clash with riot police.

The big picture: The European Union's foreign ministers agreed on Friday to prepare sanctions against Belarusian officials for "violence, repression and the falsification of election results."

  • The U.S. has condemned the election as "not free or fair," but it's unclear if the Trump administration plans to take any punitive steps.
  • The foreign minister of neighboring Lithuania, where main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is in hiding, has referred to Lukashenko on Twitter as the "former president of Belarus."
On the ground
Lukashenko speaks at his own rally. Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images
Protesters near the Minsk Hero City Obelisk. Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images
Protesters former white and red flag of Belarus. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images
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A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper

Nov 15, 2020 - World

In photos: Egypt uncovers 100 ancient coffins buried 2,500 years ago

Newly rediscovered ancient sarcophagi are displayed in Saqqara, Egypt. Photo: Fadel Dawood/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Archaeologists in Egypt unveiled Saturday some 40 gilded statues and at least 100 ancient coffins dating back over 2,500 years — and some contain mummies.

The big picture: The find in a vast pharaonic necropolis at Saqqara, south of Cairo, follows 59 intact sarcophagi uncovered at the site in September and October. Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Anany told a briefing, "Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents," per Al Jazeera. "Excavations are still under way."

1 min ago - Axios on HBO

Rand Paul claims vindication in battle with Anthony Fauci

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Mike Allen in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that President Biden should fire Anthony Fauci "just for lack of judgment, if nothing else."

The big picture: Paul claims vindication in his dispute with Fauci, played out at heated Senate hearings, over the level of risk of U.S.-funded research in Wuhan, where COVID began.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.