On Sunday, 16 August, tens of thousands of Belarusians — some estimates put their number at over 200,000 — took to the streets of Minsk to rally together near the Stela Minsk Hero City World War Two memorial in the centre of the capital.
According to independent news site TUT.BY, the March for Freedom was “the largest opposition protest in the history of independent Belarus”. The regions did not lag behind, as the marches of solidarity were held in Vitebsk, Gomel, Mogilev, Grodno, Brest, Baranovichi, Slonim, Postavy, Volkovysk and other cities and towns.
Earlier in the day, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s supporters held their own rally on Independence Square in Minsk. People from across the country were brought to Minsk by bus and train. Some came of their own will, others were threatened with dismissals, eviction from dormitory or promised financial rewards. Still, the rally was far less attended, with reports varying from 5000 to 65,000 participants.