Protests in Belarus: opposition icon, 73, among hundreds of people detained in Minsk

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image copyrightTUT.BY/AFP via Getty Images

legendNina Bahinskaya was arrested during the women’s march in Minsk

Belarusian police arrested hundreds of women in Minsk, the capital, who had joined a march demanding the resignation of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko.

Men in green uniforms and black hoods surrounded demonstrators who were shouting “Only cowards beat women!” “

Among the detainees was Nina Bahinskaya, a 73-year-old great-grandmother who became an icon of the protest movement.

Mass protests are expected for the sixth Sunday in a row over what has been widely seen as a rigged election.

President Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, won a landslide victory in the August 9 ballot, but a brutal crackdown on initial protests against the outcome only fueled popular anger.

About 2,000 people, mostly women, joined Saturday’s march, which has become a weekly prelude to mass protests every Sunday. They briefly had a fight with the police who then blocked their way and started picking people out one by one.

Police arrested so many protesters that they ran out of room in vans and had to release some of the women, according to the AFP news agency. He reported that Ms. Bahinskaya was taken to the police station and released shortly after.

A video posted by the independent website Tut.by showed a masked officer abruptly removing the flag and flowers she was carrying as she was pushed into a van.

In total, more than 300 women have been detained, local human rights group Viasna said. The police did not give a number.

media legend73-year-old great-grandmother has become an unlikely hero for protesters in Belarus

The opposition movement is led by three women but only one, Maria Kolesnikova, has not gone into exile. She was charged with incitement to undermine national security days after allegedly tearing up her passport when authorities attempted to expel her from the country.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who opposed Lukashenko as an opposition candidate, said she won the elections and was forced to flee to Lithuania soon after. She is expected to meet with European Union foreign ministers and the bloc’s diplomatic head in Brussels on Monday.

The third of the three women, Veronika Tsepkalo, also left the country, a former Soviet republic.

The EU is considering further sanctions against the Lukashenko government due to the crackdown on protests. According to the UN special rapporteur, Anaïs Marin, more than 10,000 peaceful demonstrators have been “wrongfully arrested” and “more than 500 cases of torture, committed by state agents” have been reported.

Lukashenko said the protests were supported by foreign powers and offered to implement constitutional reforms but, so far, has refused to resign. Earlier this month, he secured a $ 1.5 billion (£ 1.2 billion) loan from Russia.

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