Belarus police fireplace water cannon, detain anti-Lukashenko protesters
The Belarusian police dispersed protesters with water cannons in the capital Minsk on Sunday as tens of thousands marched to demand the release of political prisoners.
choice Win on August 9th with around 100,000 or more people gathering every Sunday. “data-reactid =” 20 “> Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets despite warnings that they could go to jail. The opposition movement has called for an end to the rule of the strongman Alexander Lukashenko since his controversial election victory on August 9th Wave of large-scale demonstrations continued, with around 100,000 or more people gathering every Sunday.
Before the march, the government tried to make media coverage of rallies by the opposition to Lukashenko’s regime more difficult and to revoke the accreditation of all foreign journalists. Internet and cell phone services were interrupted on Sunday.
However, pictures and videos posted on social media showed that large crowds gathered in Minsk and protesters marched towards an internment camp. Some bore portraits of victims of police abuse.
Other protesters waved red and white opposition flags and beat drums.
“Set her free!” Protesters sang after reaching the infamous Okrestin Street prison, which some have called the “torture chamber”.
After the march started in the center of the capital, police confirmed they had entered the protest, which, like others, was viewed as an illegal gathering.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova told AFP that water cannons had been used in Minsk and arrests had taken place, but did not provide any further details.
According to the rights group Viasna, more than 100 demonstrators have been arrested in Minsk and elsewhere. Protester Natalia Samotyia said she saw police beat protesters. “I stood on a bridge and heard the terrible screams of people,” she told AFP.
Another protester, Yakov Baranovsky, said the police blew up him and another protester with water cannons and forced them to seek refuge. “Everything was done to disperse the people,” said the 51-year-old engineer.
Belarusians received official text messages this week saying they could be held criminally responsible for attending “unauthorized” rallies. “Make no mistake!” said the Home Office.
Since the post-election process began, in which several people died, harrowing reports of abuse in the Minsk prison have surfaced. Many said they were tortured, beaten, and humiliated there.
According to Viasna, there are currently 77 “political prisoners” in Belarus, including opposition blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was not allowed to run for president, and opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova, who tore up her passport to prevent the authorities from deporting her.
Also on the list is the Belarusian-American strategist Vitali Shkliarov, who participated in the presidential campaign of US Senator Bernie Sanders and advised the Russian opposition. He was arrested in late July when he was living with his elderly parents.
On Friday, the United States and the EU hit Belarus with long-awaited sanctions for rigging the vote and orchestrating crackdown on demonstrators, targeting key officials – but not Lukashenko himself.
Minsk quickly announced “counter-sanctions” against the EU, although it was not clear what they would look like or what or whom they would address.
After Tikhanovsky was imprisoned, his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya ran in his place and demanded victory over Lukashenko.
Since taking refuge in the EU member state of Lithuania, the 38-year-old political freshman has made a diplomatic push to garner support for the much-fought Belarusian opposition.
She has already met French President Emmanuel Macron and will travel to Germany on Tuesday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Student Dmitry Demeshkevich, who planned to take to the streets on Sunday, told AFP he was well aware of the sanctions and Tikhanovskaya’s upcoming talks with Merkel.
He said the sanctions were a gesture of support but “nothing more” as it was not clear whether Western punitive measures, including travel bans, would work.
“It is better to start talks with Lukashenko about his exit,” he continued. “Europe can be a mediator, but we should get him to stop.”
Lukashenko, who has ruled former Soviet Belarus for 26 years, has accused western countries and NATO of supporting protesters and trying to destabilize the country.
He put his military on high alert after the vote, and Belarus will host war games with several other ex-Soviet countries, including Russia, this month in what is touted as a show of force against NATO.