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700 more people detained in Belarus as Lukashenko calls protesters 'sheep'

More than 6,700 people have been detained following protests over a disputed election.

Belarusian women, one of them carrying a sign that reads 'My brother is not a criminal', march in Minsk today in solidarity with protesters injured in the latest rallies.
Belarusian women, one of them carrying a sign that reads 'My brother is not a criminal', march in Minsk today in solidarity with protesters injured in the latest rallies.
Image: AP/PA Images

Updated Aug 13th 2020, 11:49 AM

POLICE IN BELARUS today said they have detained 700 more people during a fourth day of protests over the ex-Soviet country’s disputed election.

“Some 700 people have been detained for participating in illegal mass events” yesterday, the ministry said in a statement, bringing the total number of people detained to more than 6,700.

The ministry said it had registered fewer instances of mass unrest “although the level of aggression towards members of law enforcement remains high”.

A total of 103 members of law enforcement have been injured with 28 hospitalised since Sunday, the interior ministry said.

In the capital and the town of Baranovichi, southwest of Minsk, drivers attacked members of traffic police, the ministry said.

“Members of law enforcement used arms to stop the transgressors,” it said.

Opening fire on protesters 

Rallies and clashes with riot police erupted in the authoritarian country amid claims long-serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has stolen Sunday’s election from his rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Dozens have been injured in the post-election unrest and two people died.

Police have acknowledged opening fire on demonstrators and wounding one in the southwestern city of Brest on the Polish border on Tuesday night.

For the second day in a row, dozens of women joined hands in the capital Minsk today to form human chains, many wearing white and holding flowers, to denounce the violence.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who won mass support when she ran for president after potential opposition candidates including her husband were jailed, said she had left the country on Tuesday to protect her children.

She is now “safe” in Lithuania, its Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP.

‘Unnecessary and excessive force’

Several prominent journalists and presenters with state media have also resigned in recent days in protest at events.

Western governments have criticised the violence, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet yesterday accusing Belarus of deploying “unnecessary and excessive force”.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss Belarus at an extraordinary meeting tomorrow, with some in the bloc calling for the re-imposition of sanctions.

The protests broke out after authorities said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote in Sunday’s election to secure a sixth term.

Lukashenko (65) has dismissed the demonstrators as foreign-controlled “sheep”. Yesterday he said they were “people with a criminal past who are now unemployed” and told them to get jobs.

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The official results gave Tikhanovskaya 10% of the vote, but she said the election was rigged and claimed victory, demanding that Lukashenko hand over power.

© AFP 2020

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