Belarusian police, using noise grenades and water cannons, dispelled protests that erupted in the country’s major cities on Sunday, August 9, after the presidential election, the results of which the opposition claims were falsified.
More than 50 people have been detained in Minsk and more than 120 across the country, according to human rights activists Vyasna estimates.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Minsk, on Sunday evening after announcing the results of an official voter poll that former President Alexander Lukashenko had won almost 80% of the vote.
His strongest rival, Svyatlan Tsikhanovska, ranks second with 7%, according to official poll estimates.
In the center of Minsk, protesters gathered next to the monument, where several hundred special police officers with shields were stationed.
Police sent noise grenades to a crowd of protesters and then headed for the demonstrators to disperse them. Many protesters fled the square and was seen on the radio Freedom live video.
As can be seen in the footage published by the broadcaster, the faces of several young protesters were covered in blood.
After several hours, during which the situation was chaotic, the Ministry of the Interior announced that “the police are in control of the situation”, the official news agency reports. Belta.
Police used excessive force against mainly young protesters, human rights activist organizations said Vyasna manager Aless Bjaļackis.
“Police responded with disproportionate severity, using all their might,” he told AFP.
Some Tihanovska supporters held an informal victory celebration in Minsk on Monday night.
After the appearance of the results of the official voter poll, which promised victory to Lukashenko, Tsikhanovska refused to admit defeat.
Several independent studies show that Tsikhanovska is in the lead.
The official election commission had not published the results several hours after the polls closed.
As protests began in Minsk and other cities around the country on Sunday night, Tsikhanovska called for peace and urged security forces to refrain from violence.
“I want to remind the police and the army that they are part of our society,” said the opposition candidate. I know that the people of Belarus will wake up in a new country tomorrow. “
As on Monday Twitter said the international human rights organization Amnesty International, its staff in Minsk have seen “the use of six noise grenades and the firing of shots (most likely rubber bullets) in the crowd”.
At least six ambulances have left the scene of the collision with the sirens on.
According to official news agencies Belta According to the results of the voter poll, Lukashenko received 79.7% of the vote and Tsikhanovska received 6.8%.
During the survey, 12,000 eligible voters were interviewed, but about 30% refused to answer.
According to independent research, Tsikhanovska received 71% of the vote, while Lukashenko – only 10%.
Sunday’s election was not monitored by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers because no government invitation had been received.
Tsikhanovska at a press conference after the closure of the stations stressed that he does not believe in the official results.
“I believe my eyes and I see that the majority is with us,” she said. “We have already won because we have overcome our fears, our apathy and our indifference.”
Belarus has already reportedly held presidential elections on Sunday, with opposition leader Tsikhanovska as the main rival of long-standing authoritarian President Lukashenko.
Even before the election, the opposition feared that the authorities would fake the election results in order to keep Lukashenko in power.
Tsikhanovska has promised that if she wins the election, new presidential elections will be held in which all members of the opposition, including those currently behind bars, will be able to run freely.