KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Around 100 people were detained in the Belarusian capital on Sunday during anti-government protests that were prompted by the reelection of the country’s authoritarian leader and continued for over four months.
Crowds of people have taken part in dozens of small rallies scattered all around Minsk — a new tactic used by the opposition instead of one large gathering intended to make it harder for security forces to target the protesters.
Demonstrators carrying red-and-white flags, the symbol of the protest, gathered in groups and marched down residential areas of the city, demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko and protesting his government’s violent crackdown on activists and peaceful demonstrators.
“We are marching so that the authorities understand that all crimes, abuse, torture and deaths of activists will be investigated, and people will not forget about it,” Dr. Alexander Minich, who took part in the protest Sunday, told The Associated Press by phone.
Police in Minsk said around 100 protesters have been detained. The Viasna human rights center released the names of nearly 150 people detained in Minsk and other cities, where rallies also took place. Two journalists were detained in the western city of Grodno, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
Mass protests have swept Belarus, an ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people, ever since official results from the Aug. 9 presidential election gave Lukashenko a landslide victory over his widely popular opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She and her supporters refused to recognize the result, saying the vote was riddled with fraud.
Authorities have cracked down hard on the largely peaceful demonstrations, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Police have used stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons to disperse the rallies.
According to human rights advocates, more than 30,000 people have been detained since the protests began in August, and thousands of them were brutally beaten. Four people are reported to have died as the result of the government’s crackdown on demonstrators and opposition supporters.
The United States and the European Union have introduced sanctions against Belarusian officials accused of involvement in vote-rigging and the post-election crackdown.
Earlier this month Tsikhanouskaya, who is in exile in Lithuania after leaving Belarus under pressure from authorities, announced compiling a “book of crimes” that will include accounts of police abuse, verified by independent lawyers, and names of law enforcement officers accused of violence.
On Sunday, the first 28 entries appeared in it, Tsikhanouskaya’s representatives said on the messaging app Telegram. These included “names and proof, verified by lawyers, of crimes of law enforcement officers and poll workers who falsified the elections,” the statement said.
“We’re doing it so that no one could steal our votes anymore, torture us, detain parents and leave their babies in strollers in the middle of the street, and abuse prisoners of conscience,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a statement Sunday.
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