In opening remarks at a meeting on the construction industry on August 14, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced: “For starters, I’m still alive and I haven’t fled abroad as some of our vaunted, ‘informed’ compatriots are drumming up that the president has fled the country and is now abroad.”
Lukashenko went on to say that his opponents are trying to “stir up laborers’ associations” and he warned workers against participating in strikes because industrial stoppages will play into the hands of other countries competing with Belarus. “Today you don’t produce 10 tractors, they don’t go to the market, and tomorrow the Germans will come with the Americans. The Russians will bring their equipment,” the president said, also noting that the authorities will not force anyone to work against their will.
On August 14, strikes are taking place at major Belarusian factories and enterprises across the country, where workers are demanding an end to police violence against peaceful protesters and a recount of all votes in the August 9 presidential election, where Lukashenko officially won 80 percent of all votes. Strikes have been reported at the Byelorussian Steel Works, the Minsk Electrotechnical Plant, the Minsk Tractor Plant, the Minsk Automobile Plant, I.T. firms from the Belarus Hi-Tech Park, the Belmedpreparaty pharmaceutical company, the Belkard automotive components manufacturer, factories in the city of Grodno, and more.
On August 13, after the first factory strikes began, Lukashenko’s chief of staff announced that the president is listening to Belarus’s laborers and has ordered an investigation of arrests at recent protests, as well as the release of demonstrators still incarcerated.