President Alexander Lukashenko has told the people of Belarus to be patient over the desire for change, arguing that the time for new leaders will come.
Lukashenko, who has faced fierce opposition following his contested re-election, made his comments during a visit to a factory near Minsk.
“You will have other presidents. I guarantee you that,” he said. “Then you will compare everything and understand. For now, just be patient.
“Of course, there are those who do not like a lot of things. Well, we must be patient. Most people want to live in peace and quiet. Sociological studies show that people are afraid of losing stability and order in the country.”
The Belarusian opposition, led by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wants to start talks with the government in May, but only if an online poll launched on Thursday gives her the mandate to enter negotiations.
She said the first indications were positive.
“Almost half a million Belarusians voted for the resolution of the crisis through negotiations, only in the past 24 hours,” she announced.
“We had a glitch in the system – the number of votes we’ve had was so high.”
On Thursday a court in Minsk gave two-year jail sentences to two female journalists who were convicted of violating public order after they covered a protest against Lukashenko.