Sunday 9/27/20

Belarus reports 250 detentions as 150,000 protest in Minsk

Mobile internet communications were turned off in Minsk to stop protesters from sharing details about the routes they were taking, and metro stations and underpasses were shut.
File photo of an anti-Lukashenko protest that gathered thousands at the Independence Square, in Minsk. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa.
File photo of an anti-Lukashenko protest that gathered thousands at the Independence Square, in Minsk. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa.

Belarusian forces have detained over 250 demonstrators so far on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said, as more than a hundred thousand people flooded the streets for the latest mass anti-government protest, despite a police crackdown.

Up to 150,000 people gathered in the capital Minsk, according to observers, while demonstrations also took place in other cities where some were brutally suppressed.

Protesters gathered in Minsk from different directions, in a rally under the banner 'March of Heroes.' The rally was dedicated to Maria Kalesnikava, a jailed opposition leader, and other members of the democracy movement.

The protestors shouted "We have the power here!" and "This is our city!" as well as "Go away!" and "Freedom!" in English.

Mobile internet communications were turned off in Minsk to stop protesters from sharing details about the routes they were taking, and metro stations and underpasses were shut.

A large contingent of police officers and soldiers was visible on the streets of Minsk, many of them blocking off the city's Independence Square and access routes to it. Similar scenes were visible at the city's Palace of the Republic, a key government building.

Side streets were also full of security personnel and jail transport vehicles.

Protesters to the city centre

Despite the heavy police presence, protesters formed columns and moved into the city centre, towards the Presidential Palace and a memorial to those who died in World War II. Aerial photographs showed huge crowds.

Warning shots were fired in the area where the Presidential Palace is located, media reported.

There were also protests in Vitebsk, Grodno and other cities. Police in Vitebsk attacked peaceful demonstrators and detained them. In Brest, security forces used water cannons against demonstrators.

Detentions were made for participating in an unauthorized event and for wearing symbols which are not allowed, as many protesters carried the historic Belarusian flag, which has become a symbol of the democracy movement.

Further detentions were made on Saturday, with 87 of those arrested are already in prison, the ministry said.

Five weeks of protests

Protests have rattled the authoritarian country for five weeks now, ever since large swathes of the population refused to believe the results of the latest election, which authorities said gave President Alexander Lukashenko more than 80% of the vote.

He has ruled for a quarter of a century and is often referred to as Europe's last dictator.

Human rights group Viasna has said that many of the newly detained were women and that violence was reported during those detentions on Saturday.

Protesters in recent weeks have taken to letting women be the public face of the demonstrations, in the hopes that authorities would be less brutal towards them.

Kalesnikava was incarcerated on charges of trying to overthrow the government, charges her attorney called absurd.

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