(Reuters) – The young man in the black woollen ski hat is nervous. He pauses repeatedly to catch his breath and remember the short speech he has prepared.
But when he speaks, he addresses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in a firm, clear voice. In his left hand, he holds a red and white flag, the symbol of the protest movement against the veteran president.
“You must announce your departure, you must halt violence and you must release all political prisoners,” says the young factory worker, who gives his name as Viktor Mankevich.
A video https://twitter.com/HannaLiubakova/status/1321398280933253120 posted on Twitter on Wednesday shows Mankevich making his lonely protest after climbing a ladder to reach a narrow platform near the top of a factory chimney.
“Don’t destroy our country. If you have anything human about you, if you really care about Belarus, then go. Go now, before it’s too late,” he tells Lukashenko.
Shortly afterwards, he was arrested by police, according to the news website Tut.By, quoting colleagues.
An interior ministry spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
The desperate protest gesture comes at a critical moment for the opposition movement, which accuses Lukashenko of rigging a presidential election on Aug. 9 and had given him until last Sunday night to resign or face a national strike.
The three-day-old strike has so far failed to paralyse the country as the opposition had threatened. Its leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said the strike movement is growing, but that it faces “colossal pressure” from the authorities.
(This story corrects day of week to Wednesday in 4th paragraph.)
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)