[EN IMAGES] Belarus: arrests, brutal crackdown on large demonstration in Minsk

Water cannons, batons and stun grenades: Belarusian police intervened in force on Sunday in Minsk to disperse thousands of demonstrators denouncing the president’s re-election in August, the most violent police intervention in recent weeks.

• Read also: Despite the crackdown, 100,000 protesters continue to demand Lukashenko’s exit

The historic protest movement in Belarus, triggered by suspicions of massive fraud during the August 9 presidential election, has gathered tens of thousands of people every Sunday for two months.

On Sunday afternoon, a huge crowd gathered in Minsk again to demand the departure of President Alexander Lukashenko, but the police did everything to prevent the various processions from regrouping, blocking streets and intervening in force upstream to disperse certain groups.

“Water cannons and stun grenades were used in Minsk,” ministry spokeswoman Olga Tchemodanova told AFP.

The extensive use of this arsenal is a first since the protests that took place in the days following the election, when thousands of people were arrested, dozens injured and a handful killed. Since then, the clashes in Minsk had been sporadic.

Images from independent Belarusian media showed numerous violent arrests, by OMON riot police or by plainclothes armed with batons, hooded faces. Other footage showed vehicles equipped with water cannons, driving slowly and hurling orange water at protesters.

US-funded radio station RFE / RL broadcast photos of injured protesters.

Nacha Niva, one of the main online media outlets, posted a video for him showing what appeared to be Interior Ministry soldiers chasing protesters and pointing their rifles at them.

As every Sunday, the Belarusian authorities had deployed riot forces and armored vehicles in large numbers. They also limit access to mobile internet and reduce the operation of public transport to hamper mobilization.

The Interior Ministry did not take stock of the arrests, while the NGO Viasna reported nearly 150 people arrested in the country, the vast majority in Minsk.

For the ministry, however, “the number of participants in today’s unauthorized event has declined from previous times.”

Elsewhere in the country, major protests also took place.

Meeting in prison

According to Viasna’s accounts, more than 30 journalists have been arrested.

Authorities last week revoked all foreign media credentials, hampering coverage of events in the country.

On Saturday, according to the presidency, the head of state went to discuss with opponents imprisoned in the prison of special services (KGB) the constitutional changes he plans to get out of the political crisis and on which he still has not provided details.

The Telegram channel NEXTA Live, which partly coordinates the protest and has two million subscribers – in a country of 9.5 million inhabitants – had rightly called on the demonstrators to meet on Sunday around this prison and that of the ministry of ‘Interior so that “each political prisoner can hear” the people.

Hundreds of demonstrators, leaders of political movements, trade unions and journalists have been arrested since early August and jailed for participating in or organizing the protest.

A senior opposition leader in exile, Pavel Latouchko, said the arrests on Sunday show “that the authorities are not ready and able to conduct an open dialogue with society”.

“No matter how many people they put in prison, we will still go out (parade) because the leaders are him, her, all of us,” Alexandre Starovoïtov, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, assured before the event. .

The main opposition figures are either in prison or in exile, like the opposition presidential candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

This week, several European countries including the United Kingdom, Estonia and Latvia recalled their ambassador to Minsk. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was “very concerned” about discrimination against athletes because of their political views.

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