August 10, 2020

This is VOA news. Via remote, I'm Marissa Melton.

There protests in Belarus after a government exit poll said President Alexander Lukashenko got 80 percent of the vote in Sunday's election which would give him a sixth straight term in office.

Security cracked down on protesters in the capital, Minsk, where soldiers and riot police were in the streets and Internet service has been cut.

Pro-democratic challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya got about 70 percent of the vote.

Voter turnout was reported to be high.

Pictures of voters lined up to cast ballots showed only a handful wearing masks.

Lukashenko has held Belarus under authoritarian rule since 1994.

He has generally dismissed the coronavirus as a psychosis and has taken almost no action to stop its spread. He had also promised to come down hard on any post-election protests, which are now taking place.

Belarus dis not invite independent European monitors to watch the vote. Election observers say Belarus has a long history of voting that is neither free nor fair.

World leaders agreed on Sunday to provide "major resources" to Lebanon to help it recover from last week's massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 158 people and injured about 6,000 others. They gave no figure of how much money they would send.

The leaders met by teleconference at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron said the "assistance should be timely, sufficient and consistent with the needs of the Lebanese people and directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency."

The world powers insisted on transparency in how the aid is spent as many Lebanese view the government as corrupt. World leaders are also concerned about the influence of Iran.

From Washington, this is VOA news.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday announced the release of a last batch of 400 Taliban prisoners. That clears the way for an early start to a U.S.-brokered peace dialogue with the Islamist insurgency.

Ghani's decision came after a government-sponsored grand public assembly advised him to free the prisoners as part of the landmark deal between the Taliban and the United States aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan.

The pact agreed to last February 29 called for the release of 5,000 insurgent prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security personnel that the Taliban was holding captive.

The insurgents have already freed all the prisoners they were to release in a phased process. The president released all but 400 Taliban detainees and convened the three-day assembly Friday to seek its advice.

At the end of their deliberations on Sunday, the Afghan public assembly of more than 3,000 delegates urged Ghani to release the final 400 prisoners.

The U.S. has already begun a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan under its part of the deal [to] with the Taliban, bringing the U.S. military level from 13,000 at the time of the signing of the agreement to about 8,600 personnel today.

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued executive orders to revive an expired unemployment benefits and defer some payroll taxes, contending he must act because Democrats and Republicans working together have failed to agree on a new coronavirus relief package.

The weekly unemployment benefit is now $400 instead of the $600 those [out of the work] out of work had been receiving.

Democrats are blasting Trump's orders of falling short of what people need in the face of the pandemic and economic crisis.

And the Japanese city of Nagasaki has marked its 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, with the mayor and some survivors urging world leaders including their own to do more for a nuclear weapons ban.

At 11:02 a.m. Sunday morning, the moment the bomb was dropped all those years ago, Nagasaki survivors and others stood for a moment of silence to honor more than 70,000 dead.

The August 9, 1945, bombing came three days after the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the world's first ever nuclear attack. It killed 140,000 people.

On August 15, Japan surrendered ending World War II.

Via remote, I'm Marissa Melton. From Washington, you're listening to VOA news.