Hundreds detained as Belarus protesters face tear gas, stun grenades

Belarus Protesters
Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

Masked security forces have detained hundreds of people in another Sunday of mass demonstrations against the authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

Videos distributed on the messaging app Telegram showed the uniformed officers using tear gas and stun grenades against peaceful protesters in the capital Minsk in an attempt to disband their rallies.
Witnesses also reported the firing of rubber bullets.

Several thousand people had gathered in large groups in Minsk while actions also took place in other cities.
The Belarus government has cracked down on the news media, including deporting international journalists, making reporting on the protests difficult.

Human rights organization Viasna reported that more than 900 people had been taken into police custody on Sunday, among them journalists. Videos showed men and women being dragged into prisoner transporters and minibuses. Several people were reported injured.

About 15 metro stations in Minsk were closed in an effort to hamper access to the city centre. Mobile internet was also largely switched off, another familiar tactic used by authorities in Belarus to stifle protests.

In addition, several streets and squares were cordoned off, some with heavy equipment. In Minsk, many prisoner transport vehicles could be seen and uniformed men with assault rifles patrolled the streets.

There have been mass protests against Lukashenko every weekend in Minsk since an August 9 presidential election that the opposition, world powers and international observers say were neither free nor fair. The Sunday demos have usually been the largest.

Lukashenko, 66, has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and several EU member states, for more than a quarter of a century, tolerating little dissent.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whom protesters believe is the real winner of the election, said Sunday that 18,000 people have been detained by authorities since the protests erupted. The Ministry of the Interior has stopped providing figures.

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