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AFP
August 14, 2020

Post-election crackdown: Belarus detains hundreds of protesters

World

AFP
August 14, 2020

Police in Belarus said on Thursday they had detained hundreds more protesters as demonstrations continued against strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election.

Four nights of unrest since Sunday’s vote have seen thousands arrested, dozens wounded and two people dead as police used stun grenades, tear gas, water cannon and, in at least one case, live fire to disperse protesters.

Lukashenko’s opponents accuse him of rigging Sunday’s election to defeat his main rival, popular opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who left the ex-Soviet country on Tuesday for neighbouring Lithuania.

Prominent Belarusians including Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich have condemned the violence and urged Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron grip since 1994, to step down.

For the second day in a row on Thursday, dozens of women, many dressed in white and holding flowers, formed a human chain in the capital Minsk to condemn police violence. The interior ministry said 700 more people had been arrested for taking part in illegal gatherings on Wednesday, bringing the total number detained since Sunday to more than 6,700. The ministry said there had been fewer demonstrations Wednesday than on previous nights but that "the level of aggression towards members of law enforcement remains high".

It said 103 members of law enforcement had been injured in the unrest since Sunday, with 28 hospitalised. After large-scale gatherings in Minsk and other cities on Sunday, the protests have become scattered and smaller as police cordoned off city centres and shut down public transport.

On Wednesday evening groups of flag-waving opposition supporters blocked roads in the capital’s suburbs. Riot police used rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up protests. They also patrolled residential areas, firing at vehicles and grabbing people hiding inside the entrances of blocks of flats, local media reported.

Protesters say police have become increasingly aggressive as demonstrations go on and on Wednesday the interior ministry said its forces had used firearms on a group of protesters armed with metal rods in the southwestern city of Brest.