Belarus police detain 250 protesters in Minsk as crowds swell
Officer detain protesters with a historical white-red-white flag of Belarus during a rally against police brutality on Sunday [Tut.By via Reuters]
Officer detain protesters with a historical white-red-white flag of Belarus during a rally against police brutality on Sunday [Tut.By via Reuters]

Belarus police detained at least 250 protesters as tens of thousands demonstrated in the capital Minsk ahead of talks between strongman Alexander Lukashenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Security forces dressed in riot gear used barbed wire to seal off the central square in the capital. 

“Some 250 people were detained in various districts of the capital,” the interior ministry said in a statement, adding those arrested were carrying flags and “offensive” placards.

Oktyabrskaya Square in central Minsk was fenced off with barbed wire with armed law enforcement forces seen behind it. Independence Square was also fenced off.

“Soldiers rounded us up in several circles, people were selectively pulled out of the crowd and beaten,” one unidentified demonstrator told Reuters news agency.

Lukashenko – in power for 26 years – is facing a groundswell of public anger after declaring a landslide win at last month’s presidential election that his opponents say was rigged. Lukashenko denies these allegations.

‘Snatching people’

Belarus police violently detain dozens of female protesters

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting by phone from Minsk, said the internet was blocked and security forces had been making it extremely hard for protesters to gather.

Yet, she said tens of thousands rallied in the centre of the capital, although at different locations than initially planned.

An Al Jazeera cameraman was briefly detained and nearly dragged into a van but escaped, Vaessen reported.

“Vans of masked policemen are driving around the city at high speed, stopping and snatching people from the street,” she said. “It is very clear that the strategy today is to clamp down on anymore moving towards the Sunday rally.”

On Saturday, at least 5,000 people marched through the city demanding the release of a jailed opposition leader in the latest in a wave of mass protests after the August 9 presidential vote.

Belarus’ key opposition figures have been either jailed or forced out of the country. Lukashenko will visit Russia for talks with Putin on Monday as both countries start joint military drills. 

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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