Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, awarded medals “for impeccable service” on Tuesday to law enforcement officials who have helped him crack down on protesters demanding he step down in the 10 days since an election they say was stolen.
In an effort to clamp down on strikes that have hit some of the country’s most important factories, the government also issued a message to managers of state-run plants telling them to ensure workers fulfil their duties or be disciplined.
Lukashenko is under the biggest pressure of his 26-year-rule, with no sign of an end to the protests and strikes over the election, which the president says he won with 80 percent of the vote but protesters say was blatantly rigged.
At least two protesters have been killed and thousands detained in the post-election crackdown. Many of those detained have complained of punishment beatings, cramped conditions and starvation rations.
Opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says she was the rightful winner.
Tsikhanouskaya, who emerged as the consensus opposition candidate only after a number of others, including her husband, were jailed or barred from standing, has fled abroad, issuing calls via the internet to her followers to rise up.
Hundreds of protesters chanting “shame” gathered at a theatre in Minsk on Tuesday in solidarity with its director, who was fired for speaking out in support of the opposition.
They were due later to converge on a prison where Tsikhanouskaya’s husband has been detained since the end of May. Tuesday is his birthday.