Police crack down on protesters, detaining dozens in Belarus during protests against leader

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Belarusian security forces arrested dozens of protesters on Sunday and used force, including water cannons and batons, to disperse crowds demanding a new presidential election, television footage showed.Images released by local media showed policemen wearing black hoods dragging protesters into unmarked black vans and beating them with their batons during a rally that drew thousands to the streets of Minsk, the capital. .

Footage showed a police van releasing a powerful jet of water from a cannon at the crowd, visibly pushing them back.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, has been rocked by street protests and strikes since authorities announced that veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko won a vote on August 9 by a landslide.

Since then, people have taken to the streets every week to demand Lukashenko’s resignation and allow new elections to be held.

Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne condemned the crackdown.

“Violence is never the answer to the people’s legitimate wishes for democracy and freedom,” Champagne said in a tweet, adding that he would discuss the current situation in Belarus with “key partners” at his next meeting. trip to Europe.

Lukashenko, a former director of a collective farm in power since 1994, denies that his victory was the result of cheating.

Security forces arrested more than 13,000 people in a post-election crackdown, some of whom were later released.

Lukashenko’s main political opponents are either in prison or have fled abroad.

Law enforcement officers in riot gear are seen in Minsk on Sunday. (Reuters)

Sunday’s violence followed a Lukashenko meeting held on Saturday in a Minsk prison with detained opposition leaders, an unusual event that has led some opposition activists to believe he was preparing to make concessions.

In a rare concession, two people who attended the meeting with Lukashenko – businessman Yuri Voskresensky and Dmitry Rabtsevich, director of the Minsk office of software maker PandaDoc – were released on Sunday evening, Dmitry Rabtsevich reported on Sunday evening. Belarusian state.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have imposed sanctions on a series of senior Belarusian officials accused of fraud and human rights violations following the presidential election.

Protesters react to a stun grenade explosion in Minsk on Sunday. (BelaPAN via Reuters)

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is now based in Lithuania, called for new elections and the release of all political prisoners.

“We will continue to march peacefully and persistently and demand what is ours: new free and transparent elections,” Tikhanovskaya wrote on his Telegram channel on Sunday.

Similar rallies were held in other cities across the country on Sunday.



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