Images and videos posted on social media captured the scale of the demonstrations in Minsk: Independence Square packed to the brim, with cheerful crowds waving the opposition flag.
There was no official count of the crowd size, though the sweeping demonstration appears to be the largest in the country’s history. The Associated Press reported that as many as 200,000 people turned out in Minsk.
The protests dwarfed a pro-government rally held there earlier in the day, at which Lukashenko gave a speech blasting opponents, defending the election results and rejecting calls for a re-vote. While the government says 65,000 people attended that rally, the BBC estimated attendance was actually closer to four or five thousand.
Speaking to his followers, Lukashenko likened his opponents to rats, said it was not his fault he needed to call on supporters for their help and warned that Belarus would perish “as a state” if it held new elections, contending the results could not have been falsified.